KENT: The numbers are bigger than they've been at any time in the past decade and the Kent Roosevelt swimming and diving team is hoping that a bigger roster and more depth translates into greater postseason success as it prepares for the Akron North Division I sectional meet Wednesday at the University of Akron.
With the regular-season portion of their schedule complete and the Northeast Aquatic Conference league championship meet behind them, the Rough Riders are in the tapering phase of their training, according to veteran coach James Hunt.
"Right now we're in the taper phase, where we're looking to reduce yardage, increase time between reps and do a lot of sprinting and a lot of conversation with the kids between swims," Hunt said. "In a way, we're going back to beginning of season and what we did then."
As the team points to the sectional meet, several swimmers have season-best times at the NEAC meet to use as a springboard to potential postseason success for a roster of 62 athletes, 14 more than last season and the most in Hunt's 14 years at the helm of the program.
"There aren't necessarily goals as a team because swimming is weird in that you're competing as a team, but you're also really competing as an individual," Hunt said. "However, we're looking for Emily Jarvie to swim well and qualify out of districts, even being relatively young as a junior, and she has very strong chance if she swims well."
At the district meet last year, Jarvie felt "overwhelmed," according to her coach. This year, she is more confident and expects better results based on her experience and success.
Hunt also believes that the boys team could advance multiple competitors out of the sectional meet and likes the chances of juniors Dan McIlduff and Corey Spicer to do so, with both set to compete in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle events at the sectional meet.
Jarvie, Spicer and McIlduff all performed well at the NEAC meet, each notching top-10 finishes in their main events to help the girls team to a fourth-place finish and the boys team to a fifth-place result.
GlenOak was the champion on the boys' side of the meet, with host Wooster claiming the title on the girls' side.
Jarvie recorded times of 26.14 in the 50 free and 59.1 in the 100 free, landing in the top five in both events to score points for her team. McIlduff and Spicer were also strong in the 50 free, with times of 24.2 and 25.3, respectively.
Their efforts led the Rough Riders to one of their better conference meet performances in several years and against teams such as GlenOak and Wooster, whose rosters for just their boys or girls team match the numbers Roosevelt has combined, the fourth- and fifth-place finishes are put in better context.
Along with the strong individual efforts, the girls' 200-medley relay team of Brittany McCue, Jessica Slater, Mia Chapman and Jarvie also scored points at the meet.
There is a decided international flavor to the squad as well, with three foreign exchange students on the girl’s team. All three are juniors and they come from decidedly different parts of the world.
Luise Camps hails from Germany, Gabriella Toro is from Colombia and Alice Tondella is from Italy. Hunt joked that he gets to learn a little of each swimmer's native language and in turn, "They learn how to do the breast stroke."
Making their efforts in the pool all the more noteworthy, none of the three knew how to swim when they came to Roosevelt to start their year studying abroad, but each of them has contributed to one or more of the squad's relay teams in meets.
"It's interesting when coaches talk and we ask them perception of Americans," Hunt said. "They thought we all ate fast food and drove Escalades. When Alice asked me what Americans thought about Italy, I said, 'Everyone rides Vespas and says ciao,' and of course, she said neither is true."
Hunt described his three foreign swimmers as "extremely mature, bright, very responsible" and said they "get cues or suggestions very quickly."
The Rough Riders begin sectional competition at the University of Akron's Ocasek Natatorium, with diving beginning on Wednesday and swimming events beginning Friday morning.