The West Ottawa swim team has gone on a 38 meet win streak without a state championship. Last year, they were one of the fastest teams in West Ottawa history, leading to second place in the State meet. Losing the championship stung, but according to the swimmers, this year will not be the same.
Sr. Khadin Soto, a recent Purdue commit for swimming said, “I think we should be the team expected to win state this year. We are going to have a lot of top three finishes and have a lot of important returners.” In the state swim meet, the top 16 swimmers of each event score points for their team, with the top three swimmers scoring the most. These points are essential for a team to win a state championship, but they are very hard to earn due to the stiff competition.
Another major factor for West Ottawa’s chances of winning the title is the number of important swimmers coming back to swim this year. A great swim team needs depth in their roster to win tough swim meets. Since swimmers can only swim four events, a deep roster is crucial for state level competition.
Sam Smith, a recent commit to Oakland and one of the fastest overall freestylers on the swim team, believes “the team chemistry is unreal, and we all want it more than ever. This is the year!” No one can expect a team to compete well if they don’t have good chemistry. Swimming is arguably the most taxing and strenuous sport at West Ottawa, and swimmers have to be able to stay positive during early morning practices. If teammates don’t get along well it makes much harder to push through and finish a practice strong.
One point of concern for this year’s team is the 500 Freestyle, the longest event in a high school swim meet. In recent years, Spencer Carl was the champion in the 500 Free, and Sam Gruenler placed 7th in last year’s State championship. Sam Hoekstra, the assistant swim coach, explains that “the only thing we are really missing is a true distance guy. Sam Gruenler was our go to 500 guy last year and we don’t really have anyone to replace him this year unless one of our young guys steps up.” Derek Maas, a recent commit to Alabama, feels the same way. “We will have a weakness in the 500 free and maybe diving, but I think every other event will be pretty strong.”
The team doesn’t have much to worry about, given the incredible swimmers on the team. “We have a lot of talent and a lot of guys… working toward our 6th conference title in a row and a state championship” says Sr. Christian Rottier, a great breastroker. West Ottawa is clearly looking beyond a conference title, something most teams can only dream of.
Across the state, teams have graduated a lot of their top swimmers. Last year’s state champions, Ann Arbor Skyline, had many of their best swimmers graduate. This gives schools like West Ottawa a chance to step up and prove they deserve a state championship, and they do not plan on letting it slip through their fingers again.
The first meet of the season is on December 4th. Come out and support the Panthers!