Chippewa girls swimmers start practice for 2018 campaign

Manistee senior Jaelyn Thomas swims the freestyle on the first official day of team practice for the 2018 girls swimming season at the Paine Aquatic Center on Wednesday. (Kyle Kotecki/News Advocate)

Manistee senior Jaelyn Thomas swims the freestyle on the first official day of team practice for the 2018 girls swimming season at the Paine Aquatic Center on Wednesday. (Kyle Kotecki/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — The Manistee girls swim team had its first practice Wednesday. Head coach Corey Van Fleet — who first started coaching 64 years ago as of Monday — knows what the team’s two main focuses need to be early on in the season.

“Strength and technique,” Van Fleet said. “Just trying to get the core body strong. If you’re swimming a race that takes two minutes, you have to hold your body straight for two minutes. If you take time off and you sag in the middle, you’re done. But we’ve got some representative, good strokers. We’re returning a couple of kids that were in the state meet last year.”

The swim team co-ops with Manistee Catholic Central and Onekama, but as of Wednesday is comprised solely of Manistee High students. Van Fleet would like a few more swimmers on the team, but he’s not worried. He knows they’re coming.

“Day one, all we want to do is get as many girls here as we can,” Van Fleet said. “We need probably 20 girls to fill out the whole roster. We’re at about 18. We’ll get a couple of foreign exchange students and we’ll get some freshmen once school starts, so we’ll have a good representative team.”

The Chippewas lost some talented swimmers from last year’s team to graduation. However, few capable freshmen are joining the ranks and should go a long way in filling in the gaps left behind.

“We have two or three freshmen that are going to make a difference,” Van Fleet said. “We have some upperclassmen. We lost a couple girls, but you always replace them. There’s always a kindergarten class. If you wait long enough, you’re in business.”

It’s hard to look toward the end of the season on the first day of practice, but Van Fleet knows what he’s hoping to accomplish this season.

“Our goal — of course — is to get as many kids as we can in the state championships, so we’re going to work real hard on that,” Van Fleet said. “We’ll have some kids that will make it. Towards the middle of the season they’ll start to swim fast.

“… We’ll make some waves in the conference championship,” Van Fleet continued. “We might even win the thing. We’ll see. It’s too early to tell.”

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