Whether it’s because of the excitement generated by Olympic swimmers like Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin, or the unusually hot summer drawing youngsters to the water, one thing is for sure – numbers are up for Battle Creek area girls’ swimming and diving teams.
As the high school swim season kicks off, local swimmers and divers endure 5 a.m.. wakeup calls, two-a-day practices and grueling exercises. Most of the girls swim because they want to better themselves, and help their team, which quite often has become a second family. And those families are growing.
Battle Creek Central is optimistic about a young and growing team as the Bearcats undergo their second season in their new aquatic center.
Harper Creek will be once again be led by head coach Corrin Popps, who is in her 18th season of coaching. Popps said the team is one of the largest she’s had in several years and includes 11 freshmen.
Coming off a 2011 Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference East Division first-place finish, the perennial power Lakeview Spartans will devote their focus and energy on repeating as champions.
Marshall is looking to improve on a successful 2011 season which saw the Redhawks finish 23rd in the Division III state meet, under the tutelage of 25-year head coach John Hamlin.
Albion High School will look to bounce back from a one-win season under the reigns of first-year head coach Sam Porter.
A select few from the Battle Creek area will see their hard work and dedication pay off at the state finals, held on November 16-17.
Here’s a closer look at Battle Creek area 2012 swimming and diving teams:
Battle Creek Central
Coach:Rob Brownell (first season)
2011 record:0-5, 5th place SMAC East
Top returners:Bonnie Smith, sr. fly/ IM/ back; Caitlyn Cubberly, jr. freestyle/ butterfly; Karina Allen, so. fly/back/IM; Allyson Cubberly, so. breaststroke/freestyle; Olyvea Davis, jr. sprint/freestyle; Alexandria Davis, jr. sprint/freestyle.
Outlook:Brownell has several years of head coaching experience at Battle Creek Central, but this will be his first as the girls head coach. The Bearcats are young and growing in numbers and Brownell is optimistic about the direction of BCC’s swimming program.
“We are a young team, and have a great outlook for this year and the next 3-4 years to come,” Brownell said. “We are excited to get the season rolling and see how we match up with our conference.”
Coach:Corrin Popps (18th season)
2011 record:3-1-1 (second place in SMAC East)
Top returners:Nicole Gilbert, jr. diving; Kara Popps, so. backstroke; Madison Vaive, jr. backstroke/50 free; Whitney Durham , jr. freestyle; Audra Knapp, sr. IM; Prianne Pajak, sr. flys/IM; Alyssa Haller, sr. distance free; Jordan Gurney, so. free/breaststroke; Carlee Van Wagner, jr. breaststroke; Krista Davis, jr. fly/IM.
Outlook:Harper Creek is hoping for major contributions from young swimmers as it adds a big freshman class to a team that finished second in last year’s SMAC East standings.
“We’re so excited this year to have a huge freshman class of 11 girls,” coach Popps said. “This is great. Swimming and diving is a demanding sport and many kids are scared off, (but) these girls are coming out in force.”
The Beavers will try to improve on their 22nd place finish at last year’s state meet and the return of SMAC champion and All-State diver Nicole Gilbert should be a major factor. Incoming freshmen Sophie Marshall and Emily Barnebee were both middle school state qualifiers as eighth graders and will be expected to contribute immediately.
Coach:Kyle Lott (sixth season)
2011 record:10-1, first place SMAC East
Top returners:Haley Shanks, sr. 100 free/200 free; Morgan Perrett, sr. 100 breast/500 free; Ali Grenon, sr. 200 IM/100 back; Mollie Rockwell, sr. 500 free/100 breast; Olivia Lassen, jr. 200 IM, 100 breast; Brooke Rowe, jr. 100 butterfly/100 breaststroke; Mina Kukuk, jr. 200 freestyle/500 Freestyle; Brianna Dunn, jr. 50 freestyle/100 freestyle; Isabel Stich, so. 100 backstroke; Jenny Reimer, so. 100 butterfly/100 backstroke; Anna Moore, so. 200 IM/100 backstroke; Andrea Wilson, so. 200 freestyle; Ashley Chambers, so. 200 freestyle/500 freestyle.
Outlook:Lakeview is no stranger to success as the Spartans main focus this year will be to repeat as SMAC champions. Head coach Kyle Lott believes that creating a family environment is the best way for the team to continue improving.
“With a large and young group this year we are planning to spend much of the season working on developing a solid base,” Lott said. “This base will focus around supporting one another in and out of the pool. We feel working together as a group is the key to having a successful and memorable season.”
Coach:Sam Porter. (first season)
Top returners:Kate Frandsen, Sr. Co-Captain; Ashlin Tabiadon, Sr. co-captain; Mallory Wilder, Sr. Co-Captain
Outlook:Albion’s emphasis this season is to set and achieve personal goals. First year head coach Sam Porter sets out to progress an Albion swim program that has struggled in the past by making sure each swimmer improves individually. “Being a small team with several swimmers swimming for the first time, we are focusing on personal goals that the girls set for themselves during our first practice,” Porter said.
Coach:John Hamlin. (25th season)
Top returners:Gabbi Graves, sr., sprint free; Ashley Cole, sr. backstroke; Marra Boulanger, sr. breaststroke; Jessica Bush, jr. fly; MonicaLubis, jr. distance; Ella Kramer, jr. distance; Kate Frazier, jr. IM; Courtney Hounshell, jr. diving; Johanna Murray jr. fly; Brooke Tobias so, fly; Nina Hendler, so. free; Eden Hartung so. free; Anna Sitar, so. breaststroke; Hope Earl, so. distance; Maddie Rayner so. diving.
Outlook:Marshall put together a nice season last year, finishing 23rd in the Division III state meet as Maya Kerr led the way with a seventh place finish in the 100 breaststroke and a 13th place finish in the 50 free. Unlike other local teams, the Redhawks are down in numbers this year and have several holes to fill. Luckily Marshall has plenty of experience with strategy and instruction through Hamlin, who has been coaching the Redhawks for 25 years.
“We are working hard and progressing well so I am looking forward to seeing how well we will swim this year,” Hamlin said. “I am very optimistic.”