The Pulaski girls swimming team won’t compete with Bay Port, Sheboygan North or Ashwaubenon for the Fox River Classic Conference championship this season.
But there could be some special things in store for a Red Raiders squad ranked No. 9 in Division 1 by the Wisconsin Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association.
Even in a recent 98-74 loss to Bay Port, the meet largely was viewed as a success. The team won seven events, which is a mark Pulaski coach Erik Olson has his team strive for each time out.
Winning meets is nice, but winning at the end of the season is what’s most important.
“We might not win the conference meet or the sectional meet, that’s why we set our goals at state,” Olson said. “We want to make it to state. We know that’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of what is going to happen after that.”
The Red Raiders don’t have the type of numbers out for swimming as some of the other bigger programs in the area, but it doesn’t mean they don’t have some impact talent.
Olson is all about the team. He preaches that concept. But he also is well aware Pulaski’s success in part is due to a quartet of girls that he calls the Fab Four.
It consists of senior Katelyn DeStarkey, sophomores Corrin Van Lanen and Mara Danner and freshman Rachel Slaby.
The four are shining examples of what can happen with hard work and dedication. They also are a good example of what the Pulaski feeder system –which was coached by Olson’s wife the past six seasons — can produce.
“These four girls in particular have stuck through it thick and thin since they were young girls,” Olson said. “They are reaping the rewards right now. Of course, they are seasoned swimmers, too. They swim year-round.”
Van Lanen was the FRCC swimmer of the year last season, while DeStarkey and Daner also were two of the best in the conference.
Van Lanen was a first-team pick in the 100-yard butterfly and 200-yard freestyle. She broke four school records in her four state events last season and picked up a second-place finish in the D1 100 butterfly (56.32) during her first trip to Madison. She also led area state-qualifiers with a seventh-place finish in the 200 freestyle (1:53.35).
DeStarkey was a first-team pick in the 50-yard freestyle and second-team in the 100-yard freestyle.
The team has a number of other talented swimmers, a list that includes all-conference performer Amanda Laird.
So, it should be no surprise Olson and his group have high expectations for the state tournament in November. He just has to make sure his young swimmers all believe.
“For some of those younger ones, trying to reassure them that, ‘You know what? Girls, you are good,'” Olson said. “They are good, and people are looking out for us.
“We struggle with depth, of course. We are going to do everything we can to showcase that we are the best in eight events. We might not win the conference meet or the sectional meet, but that’s why we set our goals for state.”
Pulaski has one of the best 200 free relay teams in the state, and it has hopes of beating a team like Hartland Arrowhead for the gold in Madison.
The Red Raiders have enjoyed success at state in the past, and it has had some top swimmers compete at the NCAA Division I level. But instead of pockets of success from a few individuals, Pulaski is starting to enjoy success from several.
“We have a lot of different swimmers,” said DeStarkey, who is a team captain. “A lot of it is going to morning practices, going to the non-mandatory practices. We have quite a few girls who come to the practices that are not mandatory. They are very committed.
“The (success) has kind of surprised me, but I know how talented the girls are. As long as we keep working hard, we have a really good chance of doing well.”