New pool, new attitude.
The Ashwaubenon boys swimming and diving team has found a certain confidence this season, with success in the water and a brand new facility.
The new Ashwaubenon Aquatic Center was a $9 million project, part of a $21 million referendum voters approved in 2014 to replace multiple 50-year old facilities in the village.
Jaguars head coach Jim Merner calls the new aquatic center a testament to the people of Ashwaubenon.
“They saw something was not good for so long, that they did something that was very nice,” Merner said. “These young men, the girls team and the citizens of Ashwaubenon should be really proud of what they have here.”
For seniors Max White, Eric Van Dyck and Dan Jablonski, the new facility has made things better.
“Transferring from our old pool, which was one of the worst pools, to our new one, which in my opinion is the best pool in the state has been amazing,” White said. “The training has gotten to an even higher level.”
The Jaguars are currently ranked second in Division 2 by the Wisconsin Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association. The ranking, though, is something the team doesn’t worry about.
“We try not to pay attention to that,” Merner said. “They can rank us, but we have to earn it when we make it to state.”
In only his second season at Ashwaubenon, Merner, who coached the men and women’s swim teams at UW-Green Bay for 25 years, has developed a strong relationship with his swimmers that has created a hard-working environment.
“He provides lot of opportunities to challenge yourself and for you to achieve what you want to,” Jablonski said. “It’s your own motivation, and that’s something I see more this year throughout the team.”
“Our senior leadership has been great and it filters on down,” Merner said. “The overall atmosphere is ‘let’s see what we can accomplish and go for it.’”
The new aquatic center has been an upgrade for the team in many ways, from not having 2-3 people share lanes in practice, to hosting their own invitational for the first time in 30-plus years and now hosting a sectional.
Ashwaubenon has won 10 consecutive Division 2 sectional championships at the Stevens Point sectional, but this season the Jaguars will host. The new sectional features four of the top seven teams from last year’s state tournament.
“They have been looking forward to it,” Merner said. “The old sectional may have been too easy, and this will be a great opportunity for us to see how good we can really be.”
“We’ve been thinking about it all year, but we think about it as a benefit,” Van Dyck said. “Now we’re going to have an advantage when we go to state that we’ve seen our competition.”
One of the standout moments so far for the Jaguars was winning the Appleton North Invite, an invite they have not placed in for over four years. The win was a big confidence boost for the team, but it has been there since the start.
“Coming into this year, the first day you can tell everyone had a confidence,” White said. “We know we can send a lot of guys to state, put up a lot of points and we know we can be one of the best teams we’ve been in years.”
The ultimate goal for the seniors and the team is to get 2017 on the state banners hanging in the new facility.
“We’re motivated,” Van Dyck said. “We are all working toward that common goal.”