The Smith-Cotton boys swimming team boasts a strong group of newcomers as the Tigers enter the 2014 season.
Coach Jerry Tankersley said those newcomers have been very coachable and he expects them to contribute immediately.
“I’m really liking what I see there,” he said. “They’re picking things up quick and they’re really trying hard. They’ve got great attitude.”
One of those newcomers, freshman Christian Oja, is also expected to be a versatile swimmer who could excel in the butterfly, backstroke and individual medley, though Tankersley said he could be entered in freestyle events from time to time as well. Tankerlsey’s focus with him in practice has been on the IM and the butterfly.
“I want to see where he falls in and start concentrating on that so hopefully we can get him to state,” Tankersley said.
Oja enters the season coming off a strong showing at the Show-Me State Games which included first-place finishes in the 200 butterfly and 400 IM.
Many of the rookies have spent time in the pool before, swimming on club teams in the summer, so even if they are in their first year with Smith-Cotton, they are not new to competing.
“Swimming is not so much freshman-sophomore-junior-senior, it’s the years they’ve spent in the pool,” Tankersley said. “I’ve got seventh graders, sixth graders, fifth graders who have a lot of experience in the pool right now. They’d walk in and they would know what is expected of them.”
Helping the new members of the team are the Tiger veterans, including junior Carter Lapine, now in his third year swimming for SC.
“(I’m) just trying to show an example,” he said. “Also trying to push them along, pushing them further than they know they can. I was one of them. I was pushed by others.”
Lapine spent the summer swimming with the Bandits and managed to lower several of his times.
“Usually when people swim during the summer, they don’t progress, they stay at the times they were swimming during the winter, but I improved by a lot,” he said.
Lapine was part of two relays teams last year including the 400 freestyle relay team which took first at the West Central Conference meet. This year, Lapine said his goals are to qualify for state or at least come close.
“He’s come a long way,” Tankersley said. “He worked hard in the off season. Kind of got a slow start this season, but he’s working really hard.”
Tyler Spear is expected to swim in the 50 freestyle.
Last year the Tigers had Tyler Steeger and Ben Terrell swimming the 500 freestyle. Both graduated and Tankersley said that spot is still open.
The Tigers open their season at the Springfield Relays on Aug. 26.