The Great Bend High School girls’ swim team roster is a revolving door that saw eight seniors graduate from last years’ squad but has some bright young talent coming in.
“Well, it’s a good team, but we lost 15 girls from last year, eight seniors and just seven not returning,” GBHS head coach Stephanie Maier, who is in her third year coaching the Lady Panthers said. “So we have a small team, eight freshmen so it is a young team and quite a few girls who have never swam competitively before. We’ve seen a lot of improvement from those young girls, but it is a young team.”
The loss of eight seniors, including four who went to the Class 5-1A state swim meet last season as an individual or as part of a relay team, can really hurt a team.
“A lot of them went to state, and were just really great girls,” Maier said. “Since they were freshmen, they were really top swimmers on the team. So it was hard to lose those, and just having a few that didn’t come back this year. Two of them went to state last year and they just didn’t come back.
“Eight seniors were the big loss from last year, but with eight freshmen coming in, we’ll just build back up.”
Of those freshmen, Maier said that she expects Hannah Hildebrand and Brenna Haines to step up and fill in some events.
“Hannah Hildebrand, who is a freshman coming in, is probably my fastest backstroker,” Maier said. “Hannah swam, I think, eight years with the Golden Belt swim team and so she’s going to be a real benefit for the team.
“Along with Brenna Haines, they have a lot of experience swimming. So hopefully those freshmen will come in and swim some of my top spots.”
Maier said that she has some seniors that can step up as veteran leaders for the team.
“Jessica Kuhlman is a returning state swimmer,” Maier said. “Taycee Bunn is a returning state swimmer. She’s a senior. Katie Heeke went on a relay and Erin Sullivan went as an alternate. Those are all seniors that went last year. Our seniors are good and with good leadership hopefully we can have some strong finishes at some of these meets.”
Kuhlman has several years of experience and is able to swim in several different events.
“(Kuhlman) has been swimming for a lot of years,” Maier said. “She is just strong in a lot of different things. The fly and the 200 I.M. where it is hard to get girls to be strong in those. She’s strong in those.
“Whereas Taycee is more of a sprinter and Katie and Erin are backstrokers. She’s just strong in a lot of events that I can count on her for.”
The Lady Panthers will also have sophomore Alison Damm, who competed at the state meet last season. At state, Damm finished in 20th place in the 500 freestyle and was the last leg of the 400 freestyle GBHS relay team that took 11th place.
“Alison Damm went to state last year, and she is returning,” Maier said. “She’ll do great again this year, and I expect her to get to the state meet again.”
The Lady Panthers have a group of swimmers that cover each event, but not necessarily enough to fill in every heat of each event.
“It seems like, you know we can swim three per event,” Maier said. “It seems like we have one or two top swimmers for every event and then it’s just kind of hard to fill that third one. They’ll build and they’ll learn and hopefully by the time we come to the (Western Athletic Conference) meet, at least we’ve got some top girls in all of our heats.”
The Lady Panthers begin their season at home against Hays on Thursday at 4 p.m.
“We are swimming against Hays, which we’ve been good against the last two years,” Maier said. “But I don’t know. They have a new coach. They lost one of their top seniors last year. I really don’t know who they have coming in for them.
“It’ll be interesting to swim against them and just kind of get a feel for it in a small meet and then we have a large home meet (on Monday).”
Great Bend High School
2011 girls’ swimming schedule
March 31 — HAYS, TMP-MARIAN, 4 p.m.
April 4 — DODGE CITY, LIBERAL, TMP-MARIAN, 4 p.m.
April 9 — At Wichita Northwest, 8 a.m.
April 12 — At Garden City, 4 p.m.
April 15 — At Salina South, 3:30 p.m.
April 21 — At Hutchinson, 3:30 p.m.
April 25 — At Hutchinson, 3:30 p.m.
April 29 — GREAT BEND INVITATIONAL, 4 p.m.
May 5 — At Newton, 4 p.m.
May 10 — Western Athletic Conference meet at Hays, 3 p.m.
HOME GAMES IN ALL CAPS
Taycee Bunn; Allison Damm; Tasha Davis; Malia Dsque; Jessica Freund; Katlin Fiel; Brenna Haines; Katie Heeke; Hannah Hildebrand; Jessica Kuhlman; Sara McAfee; Sylvia Ofoma; Sydney Perez; Makenzie Sauder; Brianna Schartz; Estella Schumacher; Kylee Spray; Erin Sullivan; Darby Johnson.