With practice opportunities improving and the number of swimmers continuing to increase, Cumberland County Schools are looking for a banner year this swimming season.
Here’s a brief look at some of the better teams and swimmers expected to compete this year.
With only two swimmers graduated on the girls' side and a big class of freshman arriving for the boys, coach Amey Shook feels the outlook for her Cape Fear squad is bright.
“We have a tone of optimism at the abilities they are going to be bringing to the table,’’ she said.
Among the biggest reasons for Shook’s optimism is the return of her daughter, Amelia, to the roster.
Coach Shook describes Amelia as a jack of all trades who can swim almost any event.
For the last two seasons Amelia competed in the 200 freestyle and 100 backstroke at the conference and regional levels.
As a team, Cape Fear qualified for state in the 400 relay. Amelia just missed making the state meet in the 200 and 100.
“I think the best is yet to come,’’ Coach Shook said. “Amelia has been putting in her work, working on speed and conditioning.’’
She’s also been rehabbing from yet another knee injury, this one suffered in soccer, that sidelined her following her surgery in June.
She was able to resume swimming in September but doesn’t feel that’s going to hold her back during the season.
She thinks her best events this year will be the 100 backstroke and the 100 fly. She’s aiming for a finish of eighth or better in both at the regional so she can make the state meet.
“I’ve gone to states two years in a row on a relay team,’’ she said. “I want to make it individually.’’
More than two-thirds of coach Trent Turisch’s teams are freshmen and sophomores who have never swum before. “My biggest goal is to get something out of their season,’’ he said, “whether it’s to learn a new stroke or making sure they are able to better themselves.’’
The Trojans have benefited from the addition of dome-covered outdoor recreation pools, especially the one at College Lakes Recreation Center near Pine Forest.
Turisch only needs a few minutes to load up an activity bus and take his team over there after school to practice.
The bright spot for Turisch’s team this year is the return of possibly the best male swimmer in the county, Brandon Chhoeung. Turisch said Chhoeung is fully committed to swimming. He leaves practice with the Pine Forest team to go and practice with his club swimming team.
Chhoeung credits the coaches he’s worked with who’ve helped him develop the work ethic that drives him.
He prefers the distance events because they show how much grit a competitor has. He said the 200 and 500 freestyle races are among his favorites.
“This year, I’ve been working mostly on my flip turns and my kicking,’’ he said. “I just want to get some fast times and see our team win the conference.’’
Bulldog coach Jared Kaiser only lost a handful of swimmers to graduation last year.
His biggest concern coming into the season is that efforts to get a public indoor swimming facility in Fayetteville appear to be stalled.
“There’s not really any place our kids can go to do year-round swimming,’’ he said. He said the domed outdoor pools are a welcome addition but are not much more than a Band-Aid for the problem. “It’s at least provided a little flexibility where teams can have more people at practice because there are more lanes,’’ he said.
Kaiser’s top returning swimmer is Allison Curl, who specializes in the 500 freestyle along with the 100 and 200. “She can keep going and going,’’ he said of her endurance.
Curl swims for a club team so she’s in the water as much as five and six days per week.
She likes the distance events because at only 5-foot-3, the sprint races are more difficult for her.
“In a longer race it doesn’t matter because there is so much distance I can make up,’’ she said.
She relies on technique and endurance to carry her to wins. She thinks the 500 freestyle is her best shot to go to state because of her endurance and the fact fewer swimmers like to try it.
She’s confident about the team’s chances as well.
“The boys’ team is very strong and the girls are exceptionally strong,’’ she said.