FALL SPORTS PREVIEW: Swim team focuses on strength, stamina
Erin Cracker begins her second year as the head coach of the Fairfield High School swim team.
Cracker said it feels good to have a year of coaching under her belt. She said she learned a lot that first year and has already made some changes to how she is easing the swimmers and divers into the season.
Last year, Cracker asked the girls to do two practices a day in the early weeks of the season before school started. She decided that was too taxing on the parents, who had to make multiple trips to the pool. This year, Cracker is just having the team practice once a day, and much of the practice isn’t even in the water.
“I want to focus on strength and conditioning more so than last year,” she said. “Practicing in the rec center holds us accountable, because the workout equipment is all right here.”
Cracker said she has noticed her girls will need a few workouts before they’re in shape for competition. She said the early practices will focus on building the girls’ stamina. Her plan is to have the divers practice diving as soon as school lets out until 4:30 p.m., when everyone on the team meets for strength and conditioning exercises. From 5-6 p.m., it’s the swimmers’ turn to take a dip in the water.
Eleven girls are out for the swim team this year, two more than last year. A couple of the girls, juniors Carolyn Lutovsky and Madi McDowell, attend Mt. Pleasant High School and are joining the team as part of an athletic sharing agreement between the two schools. Cracker said McDowell will probably swim the breaststroke, and she hopes Lutovksy will become a distance swimmer because of her height. She said being tall is an advantage because taller swimmers use their long legs to get more distance on their dives and when they’re bounding off the walls.
The rise in participation from last year is a welcome sign but it’s still not quite significant enough to allow the Trojans to compete as a team with the big schools. Cracker said that was the source of her conundrum last year, which was whether to make the girls swim in as many events as possible to score lots of points or to forget about the team score and focus on personal growth.
After some deliberation, Cracker has decided that when the Trojans are competing against big schools that can enter a swimmer or diver in every event, to focus on improving individual performances rather than worrying about the team’s overall score.
Another focus of the 2014 season will be team bonding. The team did a great job of that last year when it met for meals at members’ homes, and Cracker hopes to expand upon that success. The team is planning to do a car wash at The Sweet Spot this year. To make each girl feel like she belongs on the team, Cracker has paired up the girls and told the pairs to do something fun together outside of practice.
Practice began Aug. 11 for all swim teams across the state. Many schools in the area started in mid-August, but Fairfield will not start school until Sept. 2 because of a construction project at the high school. Even though all the schools have the same time to practice, Cracker said she feels the late start has put the Trojans at a disadvantage because some of her girls are still on vacation.
Junior diver Katherine Mueller is the most experienced member of the team and the one who has already tasted success at a high level. Last season, Mueller finished 12th overall out of 30 divers at the state diving competition in Marshalltown, where she also achieved her personal best score for an 11-dive meet of 402.55. Joining her on the high board is freshman Kristin Burnstedt.
A couple of the key returning swimmers from a year ago are sophomores Lauren Ward and Brynna Bowman. Ward was a distance swimmer a year ago and will be once again this year, focusing on the 200-meter and 500-meter freestyle. Bowman will spearhead the sprints such as the 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle.
Sophomore Madi Rauscher will make her debut on the swim team this year after swimming in a YMCA league in her youth. Junior Macy Unkrich and sophomore Jada Lippincott are also expected to contribute.
Cracker is excited for the season to start and excited to represent Fairfield High School with pride.
2014 Fairfield Swim and Dive Team Varsity Schedule
9/2 @ Ottumwa
9/6 @ Muscatine
9/16 @ Keokuk
9/20 @ Marshalltown Invite
9/27 @ Burlington Invite
9/29 vs. Tipton
10/7 vs. Keokuk
10/13 @ Williamsburg Prairie Duals
10/20 @ Tipton
10/23 @ Keokuk
10/30 Regionals (TBA)