Young IR girls’ swim team looks to tread through competition
Last year’s varsity swimming season was a historic one for the two-year-old program at Indian River. Both the boys’ and girls’ teams picked up their first wins and, this year, with more practice time and a few more home meets, girls’ head coach Donna Smith is hoping to set even more records and progress the program even further.
“We’ve got a good number of girls coming back,” said Smith, “and we’re right where we want to be at this point. We’re working with a little more pool space, too. Our numbers are down a little bit from last year, but with a smaller team, we’re hoping to develop our swimmers even more.”
Last spring, seniors Sarah Long, Anna Merrick and Maria Smith graduated from Indian River, leaving a few spots open for this year’s swimmers.
“Losing those girls is tough – especially someone like Anna,” said Smith, “but we’ve got some great girls coming back who should really help out in our relays. Rebecca Webb, Natalie Gano, Megan Pusey and [state-qualifier] Karlie Smith all have a lot of experience and should help fit those roles just fine. Aubrey Seeley is another one who I’m hoping can score us some big points.”
With no juniors on last year’s team, and young faces coming back to the pool, Donna Smith will have two or more years to develop the swimmers on this year’s roster. And, with her past role as a swim instructor with the Sea Colony Sharks program, she’s seeing some ambitious and familiar faces.
“There are some freshmen this year that I’ve seen swim in summers before and worked with,” Smith said. “Girls like Kirsten Goodman and Seung Son – whose brother, Jung, swims on the boys’ team – are stepping up this year. They already know the strokes and can be a great asset to the program, as well.”
In the first two seasons of the program, Indian River was plagued with limited pool space and abbreviated availability in the water. This year, both the boys’ and girls’ teams will split time at Sea Colony’s rec center pool in Bethany Beach and the Howard T. Ennis pool, where they will host half of their meets this season. The added pool time will be very valuable, Smith noted, in terms of helping the athletes expand on their technique.
“When we had our tryouts,” she said, “we asked the swimmers to swim each stroke so we can analyze their ability in the water. Out of all the newcomers, each one could legally swim the butterfly, where, in previous years, we may have only had three. So, this season, we’re already starting off ahead of the game.”
In the upcoming weeks, prior to the season’s start on Tuesday, Dec. 13, Smith hopes that the swimmers perfect other strokes.
“Last year,” she said, “Natalie [Gano] was great in the 100-yard fly. This year, I’m hoping she improves her time and really competes in that one.
“I’d also like to see more swimmers training for the distance swims, like the 200- and 500-yard freestyle. Typically, swimmers shy away from the distance events, because, initially, they lack the confidence. Hopefully, though, this year, some more of them step out of that comfort zone and push themselves with something new.”
While last year’s 83-80 victory over Sussex Central was a landmark accomplishment for the girls, the season’s not all about Ws and Ls for Smith.
“The season really comes down to improving individual times,” she said. “I want them to really look at what they can drop in terms of time this year. Of course, I’d like to see some more wins, but this is all about the athletes. We’re building that foundation with these girls, and once we get that feel of being back in the water, we’ll get the technique down and move forward as the season progresses.”
The Indian River varsity swim team will host a tri-meet at the start of the season on Tuesday, Dec. 13, at Howard Ennis, as Sussex Central and Stephen Decatur visit. The meet will begin at 3:30 p.m.