Monday, December 12, 2011/lk
Do not be alarmed; that is not an illusion you are seeing. The Hood River Valley swim team does in fact have enough male participants to form two relay teams this season.
Two years ago the Eagles did not even have enough male swimmers to fill out one relay team, and the numbers were not that great on the girls side, either.
However, just a short time later, the Eagles are growing in both quantity and quality.
"We have a lot more kids this year," male captain Addison Redmond said looking around a recent HRV practice.
In addition to a growing team, the Eagles also have a new coach, Keith Ebbert, a former college swimmer at Nebraska.
Like his predecessor, Shea MacNab, Ebbert has prior experience coaching with the Hood River Valley Swim Club, having worked with the Masters program.
While he had experience with a few of the high school swimmers through the swim club, he had a lot of catching up to do in a short amount of time when he was hired in November.
What he has seen so far has impressed him.
"I really did not know much about this group before I got here," he said. "I've been really impressed. They are all responsible and accountable."
The team not only draws heavily on its experience with the swim club, but also on a core group of volunteers to help the team with training and with meets.
"We have a huge support group within the Masters team and our parents," Ebert said. "We couldn't put on meets without them."
The Eagles return nearly the entire group of girls swimmers who finished fifth at state last year and won the district title. They are looking for even bigger things this year.
The Eagle girls sent a pair of relay teams to state, finishing fourth in both events, and swimmers who represent seven of the spots on those teams are back this year.
Taylor Tyynismaa returns with the goal of a couple state titles after taking second in the 50 freestyle last year.
Connor Webb, who was the lone boy at state last year where he finished second in the 100 breaststroke, is also looking for a state title.
What was a young team last year has grown in size and experience.
Many of the swimmers compete with the swim club year-round, and the high school team members have been busy getting the word out at the school to bolster the team's numbers.
"We've really been spreading the word for people to join," said captain Tori Grace.
Those who joined up have gotten a quick dose of Ebbert's new methods.
Before the team gets in the pool at the start of practice, he has them do dry land training for about a half an hour.
"Everyone is pretty sore," said Redmond.
"Yeah, it's a killer," added Tyynismaa. However she said that training has boosted the team's accountability and helped to establish expectations.
"The whole team is here for dry land," she said. "If you miss you have to make it up."
Ebbert sees the training already having an effect, and believes it will help the team be stronger come district time. While he's heard the complaints from sore bodies over the first few weeks, he says the team is committed to improving.
"You are not going to get any better unless you want to be here," he said.
His swimmers agree.
"He believes in us and wants us to do well," Grace said. "I hate to admit but it (the dry land training) has been fun."