The Smith-Cotton boys swimming season got off to a rocky start, and it hasn’t even had a meet yet.
One swimmer attended the first practice, but the team fixed the scheduling conflicts and was able to bring in five newcomers to join five returners.
“I was nervous about that first day having one kid,” said coach Jerry Tankersley. “(We) had quite a few scheduling conflicts. We got a lot of that straightened out.”
The team has 10 participants, but that’s still low compared to fellow West Central Conference teams.
“Most of our returners only have one year of experience, so they are still a little green,” Tankersley said. “So they are still learning too. …It’s going to be a building year numbers-wise and experience-wise.”
While the numbers may be low, Andriy Usyk still has high expectations for the team.
“I think we can make state,” he said. “We have quality over quantity.”
Fellow returner Josh Menzel has a similar outlook and said he wants to qualify for state in the 50 freestyle. The state qualifying time is 22.99.
“My goal is to drop my 50 free time to 22 so I can make it to state,” he said. “That’s what I’m trying to do. It’s at 27 seconds and I just need to drop it some more.”
Swimming is also a way for Menzel to prepare for track season.
“For me, I’m just trying to get back in shape because I do two sports, track and swimming,” he said. “I’m just trying to get in shape so I can do track.”
One event the Tigers will have a definite advantage in is diving. Felix Sultan was originally just practicing swimming, but Tankersley decided to try him out on the diving board.
“I think he swam the whole first week and then I heard he was pretty good on the trampoline so we decided to try him on diving,” Tankersley said. “He’s been doing a really good job. He’s fearless, he’s very coachable and he’s got a good attitude.”
Since many teams do not have a diver, Smith-Cotton will be able to use points in that event to make up for their limited number of swimmers.
“Our diver is looking good,” Usyk said. “He’s like a natural born diver.”
Sultan will get his first chance to compete in the event Friday at the Platte County Invite, where he’ll do 11 dives.
The Tigers started the season at the Springfield Relays as a warmup before Friday’s meet.
“Everything is a relay, so you’re just kind of getting a feel of your first meet and getting some splits on them,” Tankersley said. “For new kids it kind of takes the pressure off as far as a meet situation.”
Jason Strickland can be reached at 660-530-0147 or on Twitter @J_Strick_Sports.