Swim team looking forward to strong campaign | CraigDailyPress.com

Swim team looking forward to strong campaign

Squad enters season with new head coach

Sari Maneotis has to fight it.

When the Moffat County High School senior goes to swim practice, it’s hard to see a coach other than Ed Stehlin there. Stehlin coached both Sari and her mom in swimming.

But with Stehlin’s departure this year, the new captain of the U.S.S. Bulldog girls swim vessel is Jennifer Zimmerman, and Maneotis knows she has to adjust.

“Sometimes I want to say, ‘but Ed did it this way,'” she said. “But that turns into negativity, so as a senior and a leader I try not to think it.”

Zimmerman recognizes the difficulties of replacing a long-time coach.

“I’ve heard, ‘Ed did it this way’ quite a bit,” she said. “I just have to say, ‘well let’s try it this way.'”

Zimmerman applied for the job after she graduated from Black Hills State University in Spearfish, S.D. last summer. She helped coach the swim team there.

“This is my first high school coaching job,” she said. “The biggest adjustment has been reacquainting myself with the workouts and trying to remember what they feel like.”

She swam for her high school team in Rawlins, Wyo.

“We had a really close team in high school,” she said. “I hope to build that up here too.”

Zimmerman said that she had team meetings early in the school year, and she has been pleasantly surprised to have some of the girls come and hang out in her classroom in their spare time.

The rookie coach inherits three upperclassmen who were state swimmers last year and a talented group of freshmen.

“The depth the underclassmen provide complements the leadership of the upperclassmen,” she said.

Maneotis was a member of the state qualifying 400-meter freestyle relay team last year. She said that she plans to focus on the longer freestyle events this year and hopes to qualify for state in the iron-woman event of high school swimming, the 500-freestyle.

Junior Katie Gainor earned a spot on the 200-medley relay team last year with a career-best day at the Western Slope Championships.

“It was the best day of my swimming life,” she said. The junior swam a personal best by several seconds in the 100 butterfly and finished eighth as an individual at the Western Slope Championships. She also earned a spot on the relay with the performance.

The medley relay made it into the consolation finals and finished 13th in the state.

The other state qualifier was sophomore Vanessa Murray. She swam on both freestyle relays at the state meet.

“Vanessa is having some shoulder problems,” Maneotis said.

“If she can get faster, she will help us that much more,” Gainor said.

The Bulldogs have three seniors on the 22-member team this year. Joining Maneotis are Ashleigh McDonald and Rangely High School student Jodi Thompson.

Two swimmers from Steamboat Springs are also on the team since neither Steamboat or Rangely have high school teams.

As for the freshmen depth that the coach and upperclassmen mentioned, Kelsey and Caitlin Conci are two of the more accomplished freshmen swimmers joining the team.

The sisters have posted Junior Olympic qualifying times in their summers as Craig Sea Sharks.

“Kelsey will easily qualify for state in at least the 50 free,” Maneotis said. “And Caitlin should be able to in the fly.”

Adding to the Bulldogs’ depth are five divers. New dive coach David Fix has been working with the group, which could provide points that the Bulldogs have missed in meets the last couple of years with only one diver.

“It will make the meets a bit longer,” said Gainor, who is planning to rotate meets as a diver and a swimmer. “But that’s good for the team.”

Zimmerman hasn’t seen any of her new team swim competitively but she said one thing she sees is a variety of talents.

“We have a lot of versatility,” she said. “I’m excited to watch them in competition and see how our work is paying off.”

The Bulldogs have two meets to open the season this weekend. They’ll swim in a triangular Friday at Orchard Mesa Pool in Grand Junction against Fruita-Monument and Aspen. Saturday they’ll return to the pool for a relay meet against league teams.

David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or dpressgrove@craigdailypress.com.

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