POULSBO — For the past few seasons, the North Kitsap girls swim and dive team has had to deal with the notion that personal success — not overall team achievement — is the only possibility in the pool.
Up against teams that are sometimes three times the size as the Vikings, North in the past has often lost matches simply because there weren’t enough swimmers to compete against large squads like Shelton and South Kitsap.
This year, they’re hoping to change that.
The team’s numbers are up, from 18 at the end of last year to 26 participants this year. And, like those other teams, the Vikings have a seasoned varsity combined with a solid bunch of newcomers.
“Strength wise, I think we’re looking pretty good,â€ said coach Greg Braun. “The kids we picked up this year should be able to replace (the seniors), if not surpass the results we got last year.â€
Braun concurred that the team will also fare far better in team competition. He said that whereas last year was more about getting swimmers to district and thinking about individuals over the collective squad, this year the team will have a shot to beat many Narrows teams.
One reason for that is Nadia Ifland, the team’s lone diver. Each meet last year, the team would automatically be 13 points in the hole versus teams with a roster of divers. This year, Ifland can change that simply by attempting dives and putting the Vikings on the board in that category.
Another aspect increasing team camaraderie is its relays. A slate of experienced swimmers, including team captains Anna Dale and Whitney Glebe, along with Kathryn Parker, Ingrid Reeves and Stephanie Longmate, will be mixed around to find the fastest relay. The final combinations will not only help in team competition, but also in attempting to accomplish a feat that hasn’t happened in more than 17 years — sending a four-some to state.
“We haven’t had the depth to do it,â€ Braun said. “But we’ve got a group this year that could really push for a state relay.â€
Dale said there are many positives that come with getting a relay to the biggest tournament of the year — one being to set an example for the team’s younger participants.
“It would give the freshman and sophomores a chance to watch, and give a visual of what could happen with hard work,â€ said Dale, who is also working to break the school’s 100 meter breaststroke record.
Glebe, who has gone to districts in every event for the past two years — the only swimmer to do so in the school’s history — first needs to get healthy. She’s currently fighting a nagging, undiagnosed shoulder injury. Still, she’s looking forward to a fun year.
“We have a lot of new swimmers, a lot of potential,â€ she said.
Parker, who has been working all summer with the Poulsbo Piranhas select team and on her own to improve her times, said she’s come a long way and has been able to “accomplish the same task with less work.â€ Never one to shy away from the longer swims, Parker will shore up the team in the distances, such as the 500 freestyle. To prepare, she said she even swam a 1,500 freestyle this summer.
“It was so much fun,â€ she said with a smile.
The team will see an excellent coach-to-athlete ratio this fall, with the addition of volunteer coach Noreen Reeves. Reeves will work with a group of about eight swimmers, who are completely new to the sport, and let Braun and assistant coach Shawndelle Jones concentrate on the more experienced athletes. Braun has taken on the middle eight or nine swimmers, and Jones is working with the team’s most advanced athletes.
The NK pool is crowded these days, as the Central Kitsap facility has been closed and, as a result, the CK, Olympic and Klahowya programs have moved there for fall training. Braun said they’re doing their best with the space they have, noting the most dedicated of his team members are finding other times to train when the pool isn’t packed with high school swimmers.