Perhaps more than any other sport, the Northfield boys swimming and diving team will be eager to return to the Northfield Middle School pool Jan. 4 for the team’s first in-person practice of the season.
While other sports have individual drills or conditioning that were able to be conducted during the various shutdowns throughout the last nine months, the Gators will need to spend the week and a half leading up to the first competition trying to reestablish their previous form.
“That first week or 10 days, for some of these guys is just going to be trying to get their water wings back and get that feel for the pool,” Northfield coach Doug Davis said. “Hopefully we can train smartly and not overdo it.
“I suspect that a lot of the kids are going to be in the same boat,” Davis added. “When facilities get shut down, facilities get shut down. It is a very regimented sport and you build on training from year to year...so while that piece of not having the last nine months of that routine, everybody else we’re competing against will overcoming the same obstacles.”
Northfield will need to replace a sizable and speedy group of graduated seniors in the form of Marcus Hauck, Dillon Smisek, Alex Dell, Cavan Blandin, Bryce Malecha and Jose Gonzalez-Ramirez.
Helping to fill in for those leadership opening will be a quartet of senior captains with Erik Larson, Ryan Malecha, Matt Anderson and Isaac Guggisberg.
Both Larson and Malecha were part of last year’s 200-yard medley relay that qualified for the Class AA state meet, while Anderson spent time on the top 200 medley relay team last year and Guggisberg represents returning experience on the diving board.
Those seniors will be supported by a deep junior class.
“This junior group that we’ve got, top to bottom, they’re all really good athletes and they should be able to contribute,” Davis said. “Most of those guys that were sophomores last year are returning. Some are not, but we’ve got the bulk of that crew coming back, so we can look for big things out of that junior class.”
Luke Redetzke and Jeb Sawyer headline a sophomore group after contributing heavily on varsity as freshmen and following up the high school season with particularly quick times for the Northfield Swim Club at the club championships.
Add in freshman Jens Kasten, and the Gators will have a solid base.
“Last year as an eighth grader, he was outstanding even though he was shelved for half the season with mono,” Davis said. “We’re hoping as a ninth grader a healthy Jens — I’ve seen him around school and he’s grown and matured.”