Their routes may be a little different, but the end goal of success remains the same for the Whitefish Bay and the Brown Deer/University School girls swim teams as both squads had a fun time in taking first and third, respectively in the Falcons' WildFalconCat Invitational on Saturday.
"We graduated 16 seniors last year, including (state champion sprinter) Maggie Smith," said Blue Dukes coach Jim Davis. " … Our numbers are down a little (38 total), but we've challenged the kids and they've responded.
"They know we can't look back. We've lost good people, but we do have talented swimmers coming in. We're putting things together and something like this (the meet championship) can only help." Bay was third in the state Division 2 meet last season.
And for enthusiastic Brown Deer/USM coach Bob Van Lieshout, there's a sense that his Falcon squad is only adding on to an already good thing.
"We lost two of our better backstrokers (to injury and other issues), but talk about stepping up and filling in," he said. "The freshmen have been great, the sophomores have picked it up and our upperclassmen have gotten into the weight room and really become leaders."
"This was a really good meet for us," he said. "It bonded it and has helped us come together."
Bay scored 646 points to win the Brown Deer meet as Grafton was second with 475 and Falcons were third among six teams total with 436.5.
Depth pays off in win
The Blue Dukes achieved that success with depth as sophomore Annelise Sprau took the only individual first with a 2:19.55 clocking in the 200-yard individual medley.
Sprau was a member of the Blue Dukes' 2009 state D2 champion 200 medley relay.
Bay's only other victory at Brown Deer came from the 200 medley relay team of junior Ali Stewart, sophomore Sarah Olver, Sprau and senior Theresa Schumaker (1:57.99). The Blue Dukes reserve medley relay of sophomore Annie Vellon, junior Erin Oldson, senior Sarah Schwei and junior Caroline Kucha was second.
Davis said that the Blue Dukes will rely on depth this season and pointed to a number of other people, including senior Amanda Smerlinski; junior Elissa Maercklein ; sophomore Sabrina Raber and freshmen Morgan Phillips, Kat Thein and Foley Van Lieshout who will all be counted on this fall.
Maercklein, a member of the Blue Dukes' medley and 400-free relay state champions, missed the meet because of a family function.
"This was an encouraging start," said Davis. "A lot of people contributed. It's a small invite but still good competition and everybody had a lot of fun."
Rising stars power Falcons
Meanwhile, their hosts the Falcons will rely on more up-top firepower this season as maturing talent will combine with some formidable underclassmen to make the Falcons, who were 21st in the state D2 meet last season, a force to be reckoned with.
Van Lieshout has also been happy with the help he's gotten from talented new assistant coach Bailey Nennig.
The pair were pleased as the Falcons grabbed four firsts at their own meet.
Junior Caroline Bridges led the way as she broke program records in both the 50 and 100 freestyles. Her time of 25.06 in the 50 free broke a 25-year old mark and her time in the 100 was 55.06.
Senior teammate Blaire Bancroft was second in both races, giving Coach Van Lieshout a career first.
"I've been waiting 35 years to have kids go one-two in an event in an invitational and here it happened twice in just 35 minutes," he laughed.
In addition, the Falcons quartet of Bridges, freshman sensation Kim Roos, Bancroft and senior Dani Gross won both the 200 free (1:44.62) and 400 free (3:50.94) relays.
Van Lieshout said that Roos is a terrific talent, especially in the distance freestyles.
Other returnees for the Falcons include state place-winning divers junior Lauren Isnard who was third and senior Emily Melvin, who was fourth, respectively, at the invite Saturday.
"It was a great day for us," Van Lieshout said. "All the kids came back as fast or faster than they were last year. We had personal bests all over the place today."
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