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Tue, Nov. 12

Plenty of depth for 2010 Bradshaw swim team

Water embraces a Bradshaw Mountain swimmer in this 2009 photo. The Bears once again are making waves at the Mountain Valley Splash pool.<br>
Trib File Photo/Cheryl Hartz

Water embraces a Bradshaw Mountain swimmer in this 2009 photo. The Bears once again are making waves at the Mountain Valley Splash pool.<br> Trib File Photo/Cheryl Hartz

Numbers are way up for the Bradshaw Mountain swim team this season, but the Bears' strong suit is the experience of the majority.

Head coach Patti Eller said 47 swimmers attended the first week of practice and only 10 of the swimmers are new to the program.

"We always lose a few, as expectations scare them," she said. "But we have strength in ability. All are swimmers. We have a lot of experience back. They know the strokes, the turns and the starts. We still have a lot of work to do, but they know the fundamentals."

In addition to many members from this past season's team, Eller welcomed a fair number who have returned after sitting out a year.

"They know what they're doing," she said. "There's not a lot of teaching involved."

One of those re-entering is senior Grant Kauppi.

"I'm surprised and happy he's back," Eller said.

A strong pod of young men returning from 2009 includes juniors Mike Ritch, Chaz Macari and Aero Crise, as well as sophomore Rio Balsiger.

"All want to swim sprints whenever they can," said Eller with a laugh.

She's encouraging them to continue to compete in distance races. Balsiger and Ritch went to the 2009 state meet in the 500-meter freestyle, while Ritch and Macari competed with the 200 and 400 free relays at state.

In a positive turnaround from the 2009 season, girls comprise nearly half - 22 - of the team, and Eller described them as "pretty talented kids." The team had only 8 girls in 2009.

The expanded team includes a pair of juniors and their freshman sisters. Veterans Megan Hembree and Bryce Schauwecker are joined by siblings Breanna Hembree and Chandler Schauwecker.

"The two freshmen are good swimmers already," Eller noted.

Senior Sarah Duncanson will serve as a team captain. Eller said she may add a couple of junior captains, likely to include Mike Ritch.

Former Bradshaw aquatic ace Christina Jenkins serves as Eller's assistant coach, and helped with the summer recreational team, as well.

Newcomer to the swim team, junior Ivory Fulkerson, took advantage of that training opportunity.

Eller said the swim program statewide is experiencing a huge change, what with dropping regional meets and allowing teams to qualify for state at invitationals. The possibility of dividing the state contest into just two meets - one for large and one for small schools - also exists. They'll know more after new Bradshaw Athletic Director Cindy Dahl attends an AIA meeting this week, Eller said.

Eller also is seeking means to help swimmers who can't afford fees and suits to participate. She said teachers even have pooled their resources to keep the kids on the team, because benefits to the young athletes are legion.

"It keeps them in shape, gives them a direction, and makes them part of something.

The swim team is a family," she said. "They get that family-feel, which some kids are lacking."

Arizona State Tax Credits from community members are a good source for school organizations to offer scholarships in the pay-to-play programs. Donors need only designate the program to receive their money.

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