Northridge’s athletic teams have been teetering on hibernation the past few years.
The soccer team took a one-year hiatus in 2011 because of a lack of interest and fundraising before returning this fall. The boys and girls swim teams were on the brink of the same fate a few months ago.
“I have never coached swimming before,” Northridge coach Jeff Lindsay said. “I was asked to stand this team up. Otherwise, there wasn’t going to be a team at Northridge. I said I will take care of it.”
Lindsay then enlisted the help of fellow swim parents, the athletic boosters and local businesses. Instead of sitting the year out, Northridge’s teams have a total of 19 competitors and are thriving.
Each Northridge parent had a job Saturday, when the Vikings hosted their annual Viking Splash Invitational at New Albany High School, ranging from concessions and ticket selling to timing and scoring. In the pool, the Vikings held their own against bigger and more experienced teams.
“I absolutely love my team,” freshman Josie Bunstine said. “The kids on my team, I love every single one of them. Going to practice is so much fun for me. On our team, everyone cheers for everyone. It just makes me really happy. I feel like that is part of the reason I swim so well.”
Bunstine has swam for five years with the Licking County Family YMCA Stingrays, but it appeared for a while she might not have a high school team to join. Instead, she already has set and reset two school records — the 100 breaststroke and 100 butterfly.
Bunstine won both of her specialty events Saturday, and Riley Love won the 100 backstroke and 200 IM. The Vikings only have four girls on the team, but Bunstine, Love, Vivian Carney and Katie Pileski would have been a high placer in the 400 freestyle relay had they not been disqualified.
“We have a junior that is swimming for the first time, and the other three young ladies have swam for clubs or the summer or junior high,” Lindsay said. “They have jelled very well. They know what each other needs to do, and they will break the record before the year is over.”
The Northridge boys were led by Brandon Eckstein’s second in the 100 breaststroke and third in the 200 IM, and Chris Lindsay and Mat Scott were fourth and fifth in the 100 back. The Vikings were fifth in the 200 medley relay.
“The drive is behind all of these kids,” Jeff Lindsay said. “Every day, you can see in practice that they want to be a team. They want to have the respect of a team, and they also need to learn the humility of a team. They really want to win.”
Lindsay is doing his best to make sure this is not simply a fleeting moment of success. Lindsay is running a team web site and has a public relations team to take photos and communicate with supporters.
The Vikings raised money to pay for practice five days per week at the YMCA of Mount Vernon, giving essential pool time to a developing team. Lindsay recently secured enough donations to provide full transportation to and from practice each day. The program has raised more than $5,500 in six weeks.
The ultimate success, however, will come from the Vikings in the pool. Bunstine has competed with several of Granville’s swimmers for the Stingrays in previous years, and she has seen the success the Blue Aces have had at the district and state level in recent years.
“I was looking at the times from district last year, and I would have been fifth or sixth,” Bunstine said. “The top two make it to state. If I can get into the top two and make it to state, I don’t even know. There aren’t words to describe how bad I want to get there. It would be a huge thing for Northridge.”