Patriots look to make waves in the pool

CONYERS - The Heritage swim teams have two goals this season: win the county championship and send more swimmers to the state meet.

So far, so good.

Earlier this year, the Heritage boys placed third at Habersham, qualifying for state in the 200-yard medley relay and 200 free relay.

In addition, Nathaniel Eisenman qualified in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke, while Dylan Johnson qualified in the 50 freestyle.

"That was a good way to start the year," Heritage coach Karl Koenig said. "The boys 400 free relay has a good chance of qualifying, and I expect Nathaniel and Dylan to qualify in other events. Matt Shamp has the ability to qualify in the 50 and 100 free. When the state meet rolls around, we may have to make decisions on what exactly we will swim.

"We are also hoping to qualify at least one girls relay. The girls have been working hard at practice and hopefully it pays off in a qualifying time. We have a number of female individuals who have set qualifying for state as their personal goal."

As far as winning county is concerned, several factors must be met beforehand.

"We need everybody on the team from top to bottom to work hard at practice," Koenig said. "It takes a team to win that meet, not just our fastest swimmers. If each swimmer understands (the) importance in achieving that goal, we will have a good chance of winning county.

"So far we have spent the bulk of practice time getting into swim-shape. (We're) learning to work harder. Now we're getting to the point in the season where we will work on being more efficient, fine-tuning our strokes, our turns, our glides, etc."

Perhaps the only weakness on the boys squad, besides the loss of Brad Hardin (graduation), is numbers - 11 to be exact.

"We are looking to (senior) Anthony Bazzani on loan from the baseball team, a first-time swim team member, to be the fourth man on the relays," Koenig said. "He is a natural athlete. Harrison Baize, a freshman, is also a new addition to the boys team and is making great progress."

For the girls, senior leadership will be vital in completing a successful year.

According to Koenig, seniors Kat Baize, Rebecca Bradley, Katie Cuson, Jada Fambrough, Annie Ferruzza, Sarah Hayward and Shannon Wroe will be the engines that drive the team.

"They have entered their last season of high school swimming determined to go out with a bang," Koenig said. "We look to their leadership to push our entire team."

Underclassmen anchoring the girls squad include juniors Lauren Riggs and Sophie Decker, sophomores Abbey Justman, Heidi Lakstigala, Morgan Stapp and Kelsey Zahand and freshmen Kenzie Webb and Sari Felton.

"How the rest of the team responds to the seniors, as well as to the coaches, will play a big part in how successful we are this year," Koenig said. "Although we did lose some key people on our state qualifying relays, we do have the swimmers to fill those spots."

For both teams, the major concern is the lack of depth. More than half the team (23 of 43) is new this season.

"That is not necessarily bad," Koenig said. "It just means that right now we don't quite know how good we are."

Jason Murdock can be reached at jason.murdock@rockdalecitizen.com.

SideBar: At a glance

Who: Heritage swimming

Coach: Karl Koening

Key returning swimmers: Nathaniel Eisenman, Dylan Johnson, Matt Shamp Kat Baize, Rebecca Bradley, Katie Cuson, Jada Fambrough, Annie Ferruzza, Sarah Hayward and Shannon Wroe

Next meet: 3:40 p.m. Saturday at Johnson Park