Manistee bringing depth to the pool this season

Manistee’s Harrison Harland competes in the 200-yard freestyle the Paine Aquatic Center last season. (News Advocate file photo)

Manistee’s Harrison Harland competes in the 200-yard freestyle the Paine Aquatic Center last season. (News Advocate file photo)

One of Nick Zacek’s goals this season was to field a larger team than last year’s.

That mission was already accomplished for the Manistee swim coach, even before the Chippewas dipped their toes into the water for competition.

“Going into the season, I wanted to hopefully grow the team,” he said. “And it wasn’t just me. A lot of these kids from last year did some internal recruiting in the school, among friends, which has been great.

“Last year we had 12 guys consistently, and now we have 19,” Zacek said. “Adding seven athletes is phenomenal. We have depth this year, and I tip my hat to these guys every day, because they’re excited to get going.”

Manistee, with its deeper roster, is already underway with the 2018-19 campaign. The Chippewas kicked off their season last Thursday at a tri-meet in East Grand Rapids and were in the pool again on Saturday for the Northview Invitational.

Both meets provided a good gauge for the young squad, according to Zacek, as Manistee measured up against some elite competition.

“(Diving coach) Corey (Van Fleet) and I are especially fortunate to have the first two meets of our season take place with some of the fastest swimmers in west Michigan,” he said. “This sets the bar for what fast swimming looks like, and it gives a visual of what our boys can aspire to become themselves.”

On Saturday, the Chippewas collected some points while competing in the stacked nine-team field at Northview. Manistee finished with a total of 63 to tie for eighth overall.

“Today was a fantastic second meet for our boys,” Zacek said. “In one way or another, every single athlete stepped up their competition big time compared to our first meet barely two days ago.

“This invitational put on by Northview is not only one of the best run meets we’re lucky to attend each season, but it’s also one of the most exciting meets, as many of the races are 50 yard sprints.”

The bulk of Manistee’s team this year is a strikingly large sophomore class, consisting of 12 10th graders. A notable veteran returning to the lineup is senior Caden Schmutzler, who qualified individually for the state finals in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle events.

Schmutzler led the team Saturday with a sixth-place finish in the 100 free in the time of 52.25 to go with a 12th-place time of 27.24 in the 50-yard freestyle.

Manistee’s top relay performance was good for 10th place in the 200-yard freestyle as Eric Reague, Seth Thompson, Nick Weaver and Anderson Johns finished in the time of 1:52.18.

“Despite how every attending athlete of ours performed well in one capacity or another, some of our standouts of the meet include sophomores Griffen Antal (swam a career best time in both his 50 Freestyle and 100 Freestyle), Dylan Johnson (swam a career best in his 100 IM and 50 Fly), and Matthew Blevins (swam a career best in his 50 Freestyle),” Zacek said. “Overall, the team and I are quite pleased with the results.”

With the relatively young group, Zacek said improvement throughout the season is key.

“We want to continue to improve on our base from last year,” he said. “The guys who are returning should really pick up where they left off at the end of last season. Everyone is growing, maturing and getting stronger. And it’s fun to watch that improvement.”

In the early going, Zacek isn’t solely focused on the finish line.

“The state meet is important to think about and it gives the guys a really good goal to strive for, but for right now, especially these first few weeks of the season, my concern for the guys is getting back into the water and working on the technique and the basics,” he said. “Mileage will come in time. Right now, this is really where the fine tuning begins.”

And that was certainly the case over the weekend, he said.

“What made this meet so satisfying to watch and be a part of was how just about every — if not every — athlete on our team improved on what I call the ‘little things,’ like stronger, consistent streamlines off each and every start and turn; somersaulting faster on turns, etc.,” Zacek explained. “Watching these aforementioned ‘little things’ click with our boys was ultimately what helped result in time improvements — even significant ones — in barely two days.

“That continues to impress me with this team of young men.”

avatar

Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

Leave a Reply