Sophomore Marisa McGuire leaves the starting block during Rhinelander High School girls’ swim practice at the Heck Family Community Pool Tuesday, Aug. 8. Tuesday was the first day of practice for a Hodag team that hopes to conclude its season three months from today at the WIAA Division 2 state swim meet. (Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
8/10/2017 7:35:00 AM Business as usual for Hodag swim on Day 1
The Rhinelander High School girls' swim team settled in Tuesday to begin what is one of the longest schedules of the fall sports season. It's three months and two days, to be exact, between the first day of practice and what the Hodags hope will once again be their season finale - the WIAA Division 2 state meet in Madison.
Third-year head coach Lindsay Byrka said Tuesday's first day was business as usual for the Hodags. After covering some of the ground rules and paperwork, the team jumped in and got reacclimated with the water.
"We're just concentrating on freestyle and backstroke and getting the kids reintroduced," Byrka said, adding that the team planned to spend Wednesday focusing on breaststroke and butterfly. "Some of these kids swam up until Sunday at the (youth) state meet. Some of them have not seen the water since their last (high school) meet in November. It's basically just getting them accustomed to each other in the water."
While the Hodags have a long season, they don't have much time to prepare for their first meet. The Colby Pentathlon is set for next Wednesday. That event serves as a baseline for each swimmer, as they will compete in a 50-yard race in each of the four primary strokes along with a 100-yard individual medley.
Byrka said that means the team will spend Thursday and Friday conducting time trials to establish seed times for next Wednesday's meet. From there, the Hodags will head to Stevens Point for a relay meet next Friday and then to Wausau West for a triangular against the Warriors and Lakeland Aug. 21. That's the same schedule the Hodags have had each of the previous two seasons.
"It's kind of old hat. I think the kids come in knowing (the routine)," she said of the first week practice plan.
The Hodags are coming off of one of their most successful seasons in the last decade in which they recorded a third-place finish in the Great Northern Conference. The season was punctated by Kiah Francis' double state-championship performance in the 200 IM and the 100 breaststroke last November. Francis has graduated and a few others have also moved on from the program. Byrka said the team took a hit depth-wise in the distance events but, with a roster of roughly 20 swimmers, the team's numbers are still strong.
Additionally, Byrka said she's excited to see a number of freshmen enter the pool for the first time in their high school careers.
"We've got some amazing freshman," she said. "We've got four out right now. All of them have swim club experience. I expect all of them to be competing and participating on varsity right away the first meet."
The Hodags open Great Northern Conference play against Lakeland Aug. 31 at the Heck Family Community Pool.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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