The turnout for the inaugural year of the Grain Valley boys swimming and diving team exceeded the expectations of head coach Kara Liddle.
So far, 16 boys swimmers have participated in preseason practices, with a few more to come, Liddle said.
“I think we’ll have about 16 or 18 when it’s all said and done, which I am thrilled about,” Liddle said. “It’s more than we could ever expected. We were expecting 15, so this is more than we could have hoped for.”
She and her athletes are ecstatic to finally have a swim team at Grain Valley and are aiming for a solid first season.
“My freshman year, I was thinking about transferring to Blue Springs South so I could swim,” swimmer Wyatt Huffman said. “But now that we have a team in Grain Valley, it makes things a lot easier.”
While there are many swimming and diving for the first time, the Eagles have a handful of competitors with experience. Huffman has competed on club teams since he was 8 years old. Austin Jacoby swam competitively when he was younger. Mark Shackles has participated in club swimming. Jackson Lane dives for a club team, and Eli Hendricks is a trampolinist, which will help him in diving, diving coach Eric Van Fleet said.
“Diving is a new sport to him,” Van Fleet said of Hendricks. “But his trampoline background has helped him. He and Jackson Lane are looking very good.
“We have one that will be very competitive, one that will be competitive and three (divers) who are building their basics.”
As far as the swimmers, Liddle has been impressed with the way her team has looked in the pool.
“I am happy that a lot of them were able to get into the pool this summer,” she said. “That really helped that we were able to jump in and start our training early. We’re still working on technique and those refinement things, but we’re building our base.”
“They are working hard. They’ve been tired every day. I am impressed with their mental toughness. Nobody is quitting and no one is stopping.”
They will need that mental toughness as Grain Valley will compete against larger schools with plenty of experience. The Eagles kick off the season with a four-team meet against Blue Springs, Blue Springs South and Raymore-Peculiar. They also have a couple of big meets at the Independence Invitational and the Kansas City Classic.
“I am pretty excited,” Jacoby said of competing against larger schools. “I know that Blue Springs and Blue Springs South have really great programs.”
Added Shackles: “I think it will be good for us to go against bigger schools. It will challenge us a little more.”
Despite being a brand new program and facing stiff competition, Liddle said she believes that her team will be able to compete with more experienced teams and possibly get a pair of athletes to state.
“I think we will hold our own,” she said. “We just want to compete and have fun.”
Huffman is one of those looking to make it to state, setting a lofty goal.
“I am looking to get all-state,” he said.