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Salem has new coach, same talent

CONYERS - The Salem swim team might have a new coach, but the Seminoles and Lady Seminoles don't look as if they will drop off as they still have plenty of talent in the pool.

Salem will be guided this year by Lisa Boyd, who replaces Brett Lyon, who stepped down after last season.

Boyd said she is excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for this team.

The Salem boys are once again loaded with talented swimmers.

"Our boys' 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays will be incredibly strong this year with so many returning state qualifiers and the addition of freshman Matt Tibbetts, who has posted the team's fastest preliminary times in the 50 breast, 50 fly and 100 free. We fully expect Matt to qualify for state in several individual events this year in addition to being a strong contributor to our relays," she said. "We also anticipate great swims from team captain Carlisle Whitley, whose 50 free time - which has qualified him individually for state for the past two years - is again the fastest on the team. Logan Gunzenhauser, though off to a slow start this season as he is recovering from a bout of mono, will again be a strong force on the team. We expect him to contribute to the relays and individually in the breaststroke.

"Josh Danforth will lead off the medley relay with a backstroke that is the team's fastest. Josh has established a personal goal to qualify individually in backstroke this year, and we look forward to him achieving that goal this year. Again this year, we expect Matt Neisler, county champion in 500 free, to be the leader in distance events and contribute significantly to the team in that area as well as in the 400 free relay.

We are fortunate to have a few younger returning swimmers - Taylor Horton, Walker Whitley and Joseph Schneider - whose versatility will make them incredible assets to the team."

Boyd is equally excited about the talent on the girls team.

"The girls' team, though small in size, is ably led by captain McKenna Sickler and supported by strong and experienced swimmers such as Brittany Beaumont, Erin Knowles and Lindsay McMullen - all of whom competed in the state championships last year," Boyd said. "With hard work and dedication, these girls can once again qualify for state this year. We're also expecting significant contribution from senior Kristin Armstrong in the butterfly and distance events and from returning younger swimmers Amanda Tibbetts and Kelsi Cunningham."

Despite the talent level, Boyd knows it will take a great deal of hard work if this year's team is to excel as Salem has in the past.

"Though our boys' team has great depth, our girls will have to work to overcome their limited numbers. We have some gaps in our roster, specifically in breaststroke, so we're going to be asking the girls to swim events that they may not prefer to contribute to the success of the entire team," Boyd said.

Still, Boyd remains optimistic that this year's team can pick up right where last year's team left off.

"Assistant coach Nancy Hill and I are quite optimistic that, with the committed efforts of our swimmers at every practice and the strong support of parents, we will be successful this year, both competitively and academically," she said.

The swimming season starts at Johnson Park today at 7 p.m. Teams participating include Salem, Rockdale and Starr's Mill, plus two swimmers from Eastside High School.

Brandon Evans can be reached at brandon.evans@rockdalecitizen.com.

SideBar: At a glance

Team: Salem swimming

Coach: Lisa Boyd

Years at school: First year as head coach

Returning girls swimmers: Kristin Armstrong, Brittany Beaumont, Kelsi Cunningham, Liz Diller, Erin Knowles, Lindsay McMullen, McKenna Sickler, Amanda Tibbetts

Returning boys swimmers: Matt Clifton, Josh Danforth, John Glore, Logan Gunzenhauser, Craig Hayes, Taylor Horton, Matt Neisler, David Oldham, Joseph Schneider, Jeff Simpson, Carlisle Whitley, Walker Whitley