Lions, Raiders aim to reload

Lions, Raiders aim to reload

News

Lions, Raiders aim to reload

By

Between the fresh faces leading the swim teams at Rickards and Leon high schools, combined with the flock of newcomers on each squad, the two programs have much in common this season.

Coaches Jay Markley of Rickards and Art Skelly of Leon hope to begin their inaugural campaigns on strong notes.

The Raiders, last season’s District 1-A champions, had their season-opener canceled last week because of weather. They instead open the season this week against the Lions, who have 55 swimmers on the team but must replace 25 seniors from last year.

Rickards, too, will have a limited number of veterans – 11 to be exact. Even so, Markley said the goals for his 43-member Raiders are the same as they have always been.

“The most important part of our season is the district championship,” he said. “Everything beforehand is preparation.”

Seniors Joey Briggs and Riley Ralston are expected to lead the Raiders.

Briggs, the Big Bend Co-Swimmer of the Year as a junior, placed sixth in the state meet last year in the 200-yard freestyle with a school-record mark of 1:42.50. The previous mark was 1:44.25, set in 2010.

And the Raiders’ 200-yard freestyle relay team, which included Briggs and Ralston, surpassed the team’s previous 1:31.06 record with a time of 1:29.60 en route to seventh place in the state.

“I feel those two boys have the potential to win a state championship,” Markley said.

“They’re just phenomenal. Riley is going to be a tremendous swimmer. He started as a freshman having never swum before in his life and posting a 2:22 personal-best time. Now he’s one of our top guys and is swimming at 1:45.

“And when it comes to Joey, I’ve coached college for 17 years and never had a 1:42-freestyler. He’s pretty fast, in my estimation. Overall, both these guys are where they need to be.”

Like Rickards, the Lions will face similar challenges with several inexperienced swimmers. But Skelly says swimmers have improved their mechanics in practice.

“A lot of the kids aren’t used to the meet environment where you have to wait for the gun, learn how to turn and how to swim a relay – things of that nature,” Skelly said. “Many have to learn the little things that some of the older swimmers take for granted.

“But overall, our preseason practices have gone very well. We have some good swimmers who just started this summer all the way up to those who have been swimming for years. We should be in decent shape this season.”

How well Leon performs this season, Skelly said, depends on the production of its four senior captains – Marcus Masagni (100 free), Michael Cenedella (200 IM), Sarah Taff (200 free) and Lucy Tillman.

Skelly said his focus is on what he considers more important than winning – having fun.

“We’re trying to make things competitive, obviously. But at the same time, we want to make it fun,” Skelly said. “We’re all about being a challenging team to face this season; we aim to win. But we also want this season to be enjoyable.”

Latest

More USA TODAY High School Sports