With 51 girls on the team this year and only three of them seniors, the Watertown-Mayer/Delano girls’ swimming and diving team will certainly be a young bunch. But after losing only two seniors from last year, including only one starter, they’ll also be a pretty experienced group.
The team had its first true varsity meet on Tuesday at St. Cloud Apollo, and because of the experience the team returns from last year, head coach Chuck Charnstrom said he would have plenty of options when filling out his lineup card.
“It’s a good problem to have,” Charnstrom said. “I’m going to have a hard time filling out my lineup because I have so many capable swimmers who have been in this position. Usually when you have a hard time filling out a lineup it’s because you don’t have enough capable swimmers, and this is the complete and total opposite.”
Leading that group of returnees is senior diver Andy Jo Shrode, a talented diver who Charnstrom said he believes will have a shot to push for a berth at the state meet this year. She will also likely be one of the team’s top swimmers this season, helping the team accumulate points in a number of events.
“She is going to play an important role in the swimming part as well,” Charnstrom said. “She does spend most of her practice time diving, but is one of our best swimmers as well. … She has worked her butt off over the last few years.”
The team features two other seniors in Mia Lindgren and Addie Weber, both of whom will be key contributors and strong swimmers this season. Juniors Kayla Stevens and Noelle Johnson, both all-conference swimmers from last season, will also return for the Royals.
Other key swimmers for the Royals will likely include sophomore Kalley Johnson, junior Sommer Heikilla, sophomore Jenna Grangroth, junior Alexa Asbury, junior Sophia Fillmore, and sophomore Klara Koch, a newcomer from Mayer Lutheran who previously swam for Charnstrom at Waconia as a seventh grader.
Charnstrom said he also expects to get key contributions from a number of new seventh graders, including three who he expected to take with his team’s contingent of 20 to the first meet. Lauren York, Grace Lindberg and Tara Cady are among the seventh graders that Charnstrom expects to make the most contributions, but he added that about 14 of the team’s 51 swimmers are seventh graders. Unlike many years, all but one of the young swimmers joins the team with previous competitive swimming experience.
“To know that every single one of those seventh graders is able to keep up from the get-go, it makes it easier for the coaches,” Charnstrom said. “We can spend more time helping the kids learn how to swim fast instead of learning how to swim.”
One notable swimmer who won’t return to the pool this year is Abby Raiter, who was poised to be one of the team’s top returnees, but can’s swim this year because of an operation on her ear. However, Charnstrom said she’s making her presence felt anyway as a team manager that really is acting more like an assistant coach.
“She’s one of our key losses, but also one of our best new additions,” Charnstrom said. “We’ll miss her ability in the pool, but that’s just in one race or event. Now she can help out quite a bit more with coaching and getting all the other kids in line and helping them with their stroke. We’ve already seen some wonderful things coming from her.
The Royals will return to action on Thursday, Sept. 6, when they play host to St. Peter at 6 p.m. On Tuesday, Sept. 11, the team will take on Mound-Westonka/Holy Family on the road at 6 p.m.
Editors Note: Due to not all seniors being present at Monday’s practice, a photo of this year’s senior swimmers will run as soon as possible in a future edition.