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Swimming: Taste of success has Tigers looking for more

Jen Marshall.

Last year's team qualified for true team state for the first time ever, finished second at the conference and section meets and had its best-ever finish at the state meet. What led to all that success and what has to happen for the program to continue its success?

There are several things that led to last year's team success. The girls came into the season more prepared physically than they ever had before. Lots of off-season training and conditioning provided a stronger aerobic base which led to faster swims. We also had a senior class with strong leadership skills along with a group of talented underclassmen with big meet experience. After the results we got last season I really don't see any of the girls looking back. They had a taste of success, want more of it and will do what it takes to achieve it.

I remember seeing some pretty grueling workouts at past opening day practices I've attended. What is on the practice agenda for Aug. 15?

Assistant Coach Joe Velaski is in charge of practice the first two days and he's already planned lots of yardage at a high intensity. Last year they far surpassed our expectations and we're excited to see where they take us this year. The more the girls can be pushed early on the more successful they'll be come championship season. It's imperative to have a strong base to provide quick recovery for faster swims from the beginning of a meet to the end.

Kaitlyn O'Reilly is back after earning all-state honors as a freshman and leading the team to its best-ever finish at last November's state meet. What has she been doing to prepare for the season and what kind of goals does she have going in?

Kaitlyn has been training in the pool since last season finished and her times reflect that. Optimally I see her competing in four events (the max) at the state meet and earning All State honors in at least three of them. We have yet to have an All State relay team and I think Kaitlyn will help lead that charge this year.

Who are some other swimmers and divers from last year's team that you expect to have a big impact on the team's success?

Our three senior captains -- Abby Haugen, Sarah O'Reilly and Victoria Resch -- have been working hard in preparation for the season since the spring. They undoubtedly will have a big impact on this season's results. Freshman Kirsten Kracke was named All Conference last season and should qualify for the state meet again this year. Other impact athletes include Maddie Alexander, Jade Alm, Robin Ellis, Chloe Holton, Sara Kintner, Megan Maniaci, Kendall Novak, Cora Ruzicka, Hannah Seitzinger, Ellie Sundet, Hanna Sundt and Delaney Wright.

The FHS girls swim program almost seems as if it's a family. Is it something about the sport that makes the players and coaches become very close or is it this particular group of kids, or both?

We are a family and we operate that way both in and out of the pool. The girls know they can trust each other and the coaches with anything. We do a lot of things at practices that only strengthen that mentality. Plus, I think any group of teenagers who practice together at 5 a.m. builds a bond like no other!

What kind of goals do you have going into this season?

The past few years the girls have surpassed the goals I've set for them. That's not to say my goals were easy to attain either. Optimally I'm excited to bring home our first conference championship and this may be the year to do it. Qualifying more events for the state meet and finishing in the top 10 is a goal of mine also.