During a 2012-13 boys’ swimming season in which Watertown-Mayer/Waconia/Delano featured fewer than two dozen athletes, Watertown-Mayer coach Chuck Charnstrom quickly learned to make do with a small lineup.
The team still finished fourth in the Wright County Conference last year, landing four on the all-conference team and even sending two to state. As the Royals head into the 2013-14 season, they once again feature only 20 swimmers on their roster, but this time, the Royals will also have to figure out a way to get by without three of those all-conference swimmers.
Kurt Gilbertson, Shawn Wasser and Tylor Franklin all graduated after earning all-WCC honors last year, leaving a big hole at the top of the lineup for the Royals.
“We lost some really good swimmers from last year,” Charnstrom said. “We can’t replace them, but hopefully we can build (some of the younger swimmers). We’re getting more swimmers in than we’re losing, but at the same time, they’re new. Although, every single one of the new swimmers have been swimming in the offseason, so it’s kind of nice that everyone on the team can swim.”
With six seventh graders and three eighth graders on this year’s team, more than a third of the team’s roster is in middle school. However, Charnstrom said that if there is a benefit to having such a small team, it’s that he has more time to work with and develop each individual swimmer throughout the year.
“It’s quite a bit easier to coach because I can cover so much more,” Charnstrom said. “I have 20 kids as opposed to 55 with the girls.”
While the Royals will be lacking depth after being hit hard by graduation, they aren’t completely void of talented swimmers and divers. In fact, both of their state qualifiers are returning this year.
In the pool, that means junior Zach Holman, who won the 100-yard butterfly and 200-yard IM at the Wright County Conference meet, and later qualified for two swimming events at the Class AA state meet.
“As fast as he is, he should be able to set a couple pool records,” Charnstrom said. “I told him, he should be able to have every one of the school records by the time the season is over if he puts his mind to it, and doesn’t get lax and fall back on his talent.”
The other returning state entrant is diver Tristan Gens. However, the Royals won’t be seeing a whole lot of him this year, because, as WMWD phases out its diving program over the next several years, Gens is the team’s lone diver, and he’ll be practicing in Orono. He’ll only be able to compete in diving at the Royals’ away meets.
“He’ll probably win most of the competitions,” Charnstrom said.
Gens will also be contributing in the pool, though he won’t get any practice time in swimming events. That used to be a requirement for Charnstrom, but given the circumstances, it just isn’t possible any more.
“I’ve always made the divers swim in the past, but that’s a fight I’ve basically given up on,” Charnstrom said. “He will swim, because he’s strong enough and fast enough and we don’t have the numbers, but I’m not going to make him practice.”
Ben DeSutter also returns this year, and will be one of the team’s top swimmers. Last year, he finished fourth in the 100-yard butterfly at the conference meet. Jack Dalluge, who finished third in the WCC in the 200-yard freestyle and sixth in the 100-yard freestyle, will also return for the Royals. Other key returnees include Austin Gilbert, Brent Unowsky, Givon Kumal, Allan Janikula, Tyler Hannan, Jake Weber and Adam Bartell.
Captains for this season are the Royals’ three seniors: Hannan, Gilbert and Janikula.