COSHOCTON – The River View swim team returns 12 of its 16 district qualifiers from a season ago, putting it in a better position than it was at this time last year.
Then, now-seniors and district qualifiers Josh Bigrigg, Jonathan Helmick and Bryar Cox were new swimmers. They had to be taught how to swim competitively.
They were newbies.
“It’s been a world of difference. Last year, we couldn’t make it from one end to the other without about drowning,” Cox said.
That’s not the case anymore. Now, coach Kristina King and the Black Bears can attack training head on, without waiting.
“We don’t have to spend that first month just learning how to swim. I can tell them to just go after it. We are weeks ahead of where we were last year,” King said.
And that’s brought optimism around the program on both the girls and boys sides.
On the girls side, senior and captain KJ Smailes said they only lost two or three district qualifiers to graduation.
Smailes was a member of the medley and 400 yard freestyle relay team. Also on the 400 freestyle relay were Madison Woolard and Kenzie Hudson. Add in junior Shawna Shorter and you have four of the girls King thinks can qualify for district individually this year.
After qualifying for district in her two relays last year, Smailes said she learned something that will help the team this year.
“You are never really done pushing yourself. However good you can get, there is still more that you can do because obviously we didn’t win districts or go to state so there is more that we can do,” Smailes said.
King thinks the team can get all of its relays back to district this year, including the boys 4×100 relay, which Cox is hoping to get on the podium for and potentially qualify for state.
“We are all excited because we are coming back with times similar to what we ended with last year, and it’s been a whole new season,” Cox said. “We are expecting to take a whole lot of time off and potentially make podium at district if we can hit our goal time.”
Cox, who his entering his second year swimming, will join 4×100 relay teammates Bigrigg and Helmick as well as newcomer junior Nate Cooper.
Along with making the podium in the relay, King thinks the four of them can qualify for district individually, too.
That adds to the strength of the team — its depth.
“We still have certain individuals who can do any stroke we ask of them and any event that we ask of them,” King said. “We lost some of that. Three of the four seniors we lost were all four stroke kids, but I think these returning letterwinners are just stronger.”
However, King does think they will need to get deeper to win more meets this season.
“We need to be deeper to win a lot of individual meets. I do think individually we can finish well, and in relays we can be very strong in our invites,” King said. “I think several of them can be strong individually.”
The Black Bears will open the season Tuesday at Orrville in the Orrville tri-invite, which also includes Coshocton.