By ELWOOD K. SHELTON
Daily Press writer
Many coaches dread winter break, but not coach Ed Stehlin.
For the first three weeks of the swim season, Stehlin has watched his team fight the effects of the Dec. 1 bus crash.
The bus crash, which occurred en route to the first meet of the season in Montrose, left the Lady 'Dogs swimming with both physical and mental injuries.
The time off has given the girls time to regroup and heal.
Stehlin had his first look at what was supposed to be a healed and rested team on Wednesday, but at this point he can't gauge what shape they are in because of a lack of numbers.
"About half of the team was absent from the first practice, because they're still on break," he said. "I won't know were we stand until Saturday."
What is so special about Saturday is that it's the Lady Bulldogs return to competitive swimming, and against what Stehlin considers to be one of the area's most powerful teams the Glenwood Springs Demons.
The meet is scheduled for 11 a.m. at Moffat County High School.
He's also not losing sleep over the outcome, and is viewing the meet as a reintroduction to the season.
"I've talked to the Glenwood coach, and her team is in the same boat as us. They've been struggling," he said. "We're just going to get the girls into the pool and back swimming, and treat it as no big deal."
Although only five girls showed up over the seven days that Stehlin had the pool open for individual workouts, the coach didn't expect his girls to unnecessarily push themselves.
"I hoped the girls listened to their bodies and did what they told them to do," he said. "If they were hurting, I didn't want them pushing themselves."
Stehlin's swimmers have voiced concerns about the number of challenges the team will face because of the bus crash.
"The only thing that's really still hurt from the bus crash is our spirit," junior Chloe Gilchrist said. "We were real up for our first meet, and the bus crash wiped that all away. There are a lot of girls still really down."
The 200 medley relay team is the lone, pre-break qualification for the Lady 'Dogs, which is way below what the team expected before season. But, the lack of qualification hasn't dampened the hopes of the swimmers, and may also be the cure for what ails the Lady 'Dogs.
Aside from dealing with the accident, the girls also faced end-of-semester school work, which may have been a factor in the team not qualifying for state.
"I think if we get back in the pool and work hard, and get a few more qualifications it will really help us overcome anything left from the bus crash," Gilchrist said.
"We need to take the time in practices and meets to get closer as a team," she said. "We're already close, but I think through hard work we'll only get closer."