CONYERS - Rockdale swim coach Stephen Sansing has high hopes for his team in 2007.
And why not?
Both the Bulldogs and Lady Bulldogs return several starters to the roster this season.
But that's not the only reason why Sansing is optimistic.
"Both our boys and girls teams look to have a lot more diversity in their strokes this year," he said. "Last year, we had a lot of young swimmers who mostly swam freestyle. A lot of them have been working on learning and perfecting their other strokes so they can actually help us win meets."
Sansing is hoping his girls team can take last year's success and build on it.
"Our girls team looks to be even stronger than it was last year, when we qualified four girls for state," he said. "We have a lot of sophomores that are looking to step up this year, and we look to be competitive in every event. The guys have the potential to be much better than we were last year. We just have to get in the pool and do it. We have our core group back this season on both teams, and we plan on continuing our improvement."
Leading the way for the Rockdale girls is Lauren Troxler.
"Lauren Troxler is our top returning swimmer. She qualified for state last year in both 100 free and 100 back, in addition to leading all three relay teams to state," Sansing said. "She may even get a couple more qualifications under her belt if we need it.
"Melanie Wright (fly), Patty Murphy (breast) and Miranda Wright (free) round out our top relay team, and each one of them will look to make state in their individual events as well."
Sansing is also expecting good things from the boys team.
"On the guys side, Chris Montalvo, Ryan Young, Jake Grant, and Josh Lambo will be the key swimmers we will rely on this year. Jacob Smith improved a lot last year, and Kari Logan has worked hard over the offseason to make him a key contributor as well," he said. "We also have some guys out this year who haven't swam in a couple years, but we think they will step up eventually and be able to help us out."
Despite the high expectations, Sansing knows his team still has to work very hard to get there.
"We are still a young team without a lot of upperclassmen that are used to leading. Last year was the first year in a while that these guys and girls were on a winning team," he said. "They still haven't learned totally that to get to the top and stay there requires focus and dedication at a level we haven't achieved yet. Once we get to a point that we have that focus and dedication every day, then we will be able to compete with anyone."
Brandon Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org