(Above, the 2019-20 Boys Swim team)
FREMONT – Every season brings change and, with it, new challenges.
As the Fremont Ross swimming programs get set to dive into the 2019-20 season, changes abound for both the boys and girls programs. The Little and Lady Giants begin their season Tuesday evening at 5 p.m. at home against Sandusky.
A new era begins for Lady Giants
The losses the girls program has sustained from last year are, in a word, massive.
In the district meet a season ago, the Lady Giants totaled 266 points with 157 of them stemming from performances by now-graduated seniors Olivia DeRodes, Makennah Fitzgerald and AnneMarie Moses – all of whom signed Division I collegiate athletic scholarships.
With the trio now gone, coach Phil Moran knows the Lady Giants are entering a new world.
“The girls are going to be a different team,” Moran said. “We have some solid girls coming back but we didn’t get a big influx – I only have one freshman. It’s been years since I could say that.”
To say the Ross’ girls are no longer to be considered among the contenders in the district, however, is not accurate. The Lady Giants have a number of returning swimmers with the potential and talent to keep Ross right where it’s used to being – at the top of the leaderboard.
Senior Alexis Prenzlin, the program’s breaststroke record-holder at 1:02.65, finished fifth in the state a year ago in the event. She also, along with the graduated seniors, set a the 200-yard medley relay record of 1:44.65 in their seventh-place finish at the state meet.
“I think her (potential) is definitely on the high end,” Moran said of Prenzlin. “I’d like to see a 1:01, but I think she’d like to be a little faster than that. Another second, I think, would be incredible. I like the fact she wants to go faster. I’d like her to get the (individual medley) figured out and put the four 50s togethers, I think she could get the school record in the IM.”
Prenzlin, however, isn’t the only state-qualified breaststroker on the roster. Maddie Gallagher qualified for the state meet as a freshman where she finished 19th, making Ross loaded in the event.
Lauren and Faith Zimmerman return after qualifying for the district meet despite injuries plaguing their sophomore seasons.
“Faith didn’t do any real training after the Ned Reeb meet in December,” Moran said. “We got her back in the water a week before sectionals. She finally got healthy enough to compete and she still qualified for districts. Her sister had hip issues she was going through. Both are healthy and doing well.”
Junior Rachel Haitonic returns as the team’s lead swimmer in the freestyle events, having qualified for districts her freshman and sophomore seasons. MeKela Elder (freestyle) and Mara Brown (butterfly) also return from district-qualifying seasons. Moran said he believes Allison Taylor, Hayley Wilson and Hannah Widman can also drop times and step into larger roles.
Senior Sarah Watson and sophomore Jadyn Rozzell return as district-qualifying divers as well.
While Moran believes Ross can still be successful, he said the extent of that success will be determined by how hard the girls that remain are willing to work to fill the voids left by the graduated seniors.
“We have some girls that are seniors that will all help step up, but yeah it’s a challenge,” Moran said. “They’re going to have to get those girls to push themselves that haven’t had to necessarily push themselves because they knew ‘Oh, I can’t beat her.’ It’s amazing what you’ll get. You’ll either get a massive step up or they won’t step up at all.
“It’s going to be a whole different world.”
Little Giants will decide for themselves how far they’ll go
The ingredients appear to be there. The Fremont Ross boys swim team has a nice mix of top-end talent, returning experience and an infusion of youth for depth.
“On the boys side there is lot of depth, I have more depth on the boys, and the sheer numbers,” Moran said. “We have about 25 guys in there versus 22 girls. Five guys are going to try diving. They could be pleasant surprises there and score points for us.”
The biggest question surrounding the boys success, is how hard they’ll push themselves in order to achieve it. Moran believes there is a crop of five to six swimmers capable of combining their talents into a state meet-qualifying relay. But that was the case last year too
“We’ll see if they step up,” Moran said. “I think the medley is our best shot. We missed the 400 last year by a second, between four guys. They chose not to swim mornings, they chose not to do things they should do.
“If the boys take ownership in their training and they work hard every day, at the end of the season, they might be pleasantly surprised.”
In addition to his program records in the butterfly (50.85) and backstroke (52.59), Dylan Weisenauer, is a three-time state qualifier and finished 20th in the state last year in the butterfly. While he has enjoyed personal success, he said his priority for his senior season is to have company in returning to the state meet this season.
“A successful season, in my eyes, personally, would be to get a relay to state this year, that’s my No. 1 goal this year,” Weisenauer said. “I want to put me and my boys before myself. It’s my last year and I want to have that state experience with them. I want to go as a team this year.”
Moran said there a handful of candidates to join Weisanuer on the relay, including Connor Colston, Case Stevenson, James Elder, Braedyn Price and Logan Weisenauer.
Other returning seniors include Andy Burroughs, Zach Edmonds, Zach McNutt and Ivan Starkweather.
“We lost some good swimmers from last year, but it’ll be interesting,” Moran said. “This boys group has potential to go to state as a relay, if they want to go down and help Dylan out, they have potential to. We’ll see if they step up. I think the medley is our best shot.”
As a whole, while Ross’ programs may not be overwhelmingly dominant as they’ve been in recent seasons, but the Little and Lady Giants will be far from a pushover.
“The boys are going to be competitive,” Moran said. “We’re still going to have issues with Findlay and Perkins. …If I’m trying to move some kids around and they’re not in their best events and some team comes in loaded, we could in trouble.
“The line-up, we could make last year in 15 to 20 minutes. I think we’ve spent an hour on the lineup for the first one and we’re still not done. We’re tweaking it. How are you setting those relays up? You can’t set your four fastest kids in those three relays. You just can’t. We could do that last year and still have the younger kids step up and score major points and win, easily. I can’t do that this year. We got to make sure we can pick up the points where we can.”