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It’s been a concern for Southern Maryland Athletic conference swim coaches for years.
They’re talking about the need to attract more year-round club swimmers who are not participating on high school swim teams but could be, and make it worth their while to compete on both teams in order for the conference to compete with the top five swim teams in the state.
Teams are tapering practices in aiming for their fastest times to come this weekend at the state swim meets that will be held at the University of Maryland College Park’s Eppley Recreation Center.
The Class 4A-3A meet will dive in first at 10 a.m, then the Class 3A-2A-1A meet will begin at 4 p.m.
Leonardtown head coach Chuck Jacobs, whose teams will compete in the 4A-3A meet on Saturday, said that it’s going to take a few more years to bypass the top teams like Walt Whitman, Wootton, Walter Johnson and Winston Churchill from Montgomery County, winners of last year’s state meet.
Jacobs said the reason these teams are coming out on top is simply because their swimmers chose to swim with the USA swim teams or club teams as well as their high school teams.
“Unfortunately, our club kids make the choice not to swim at the high school level,” Jacobs said. “It would make us more competitive because there is so much swimming history there in Montgomery County and when they came into the state meet, it took things to a different level. They swim in the Potomac Valley Association, but we’re knocking on the doors again.”
Jacobs said the new state qualification system has made things even more difficult. Instead of the top four regional placements advancing to states, the top three advance and then the fourth through 12th times are considered.
“Montgomery County is just a perennial powerhouse in the state,” Jacobs added. “All of their club kids swim high school and some coaches down here don’t think it would be the best for the swimmers. I disagree. We have a local [club] relay team that would definitely compete well at the state meet.”
Jacobs is looking for a great outing from junior Mairyn Branaman, who just set a new regional record last weekend in the 100-yard butterfly at the 4A-3A East Region championships with her time of 1 minute 0.56 seconds.
Patuxent head coach Jeff Ganoe and the Panthers are coming off of a high-energy week after sweeping the 3A-2A-1A South Region championships on both the boys and girls sides.
Ganoe said his team is heading into the 3A-2A-1A state meet with high hopes of at least matching its individual performances at regionals.
“I think, as a division, SMAC provides a great foundation and training platform for the non year-round swimmers,” Ganoe said. “Thankfully, we don’t go against the Baltimore and Annapolis powerhouses who traditionally field strong teams due to the large complement of club swimmers on their respective teams.”
Ganoe recognizes the difference in talent level and times on the board.
“We, in SMAC, like to think of ourselves as the Davids going up against the Goliaths up north,” Ganoe said, “but given that, it doesn’t diminish our competitive nature or will to win.”
Ganoe said he should see a strong performance from Chris Kahl in the 500 freestyle as well as the 100 backstroke. Captain Cassi Beck is also on his radar for the 500 free and the 200 individual medley.
“The bittersweet moment will come when the last relay team of event 24 climbs out of the water and we have say goodbye to our 11 seniors.” Ganoe said.
North Point head coach Jeff Rivenburg said members of his team are feeling positive and enthusiastic about qualifying for what he says is a very difficult meet to get into.
“The 4A-3A state meet is a very fast meet and if you are not an automatic qualifier, you have to have a tremendous time just to get in,” Rivenburg said. “With the addition of those schools [from the north], the meet became exponentially more difficult to get into, and we have more this year than last year.”
Rivenburg said if there’s one thing that sets his 2012-13 team apart it’s the pride.
“I say that because, as a coach, I can’t be more proud of this team for everything in the pool and out.” Rivenburg said.