Rising tides

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Bolivar freshman Kyla Ewing pushes through the pool at the Foster Natatorium in Springfield on Tuesday, Jan. 14.

One day after his team recorded 35 personal best times at the Springfield Quad meet Tuesday, Jan. 14, Bolivar High School swim coach Kyle Smith had a specific practice in mind. 

“We’re going to repeat the practice from the first day of our season tomorrow,” he said. “This time, I’d estimate it’s only going to take us half the time. Then, we’ll start our workout.”

The change in the team’s ability to get through practices more quickly is just one sign of its marked improvement over the last three months, Smith said.

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Sophia Salyer comes up for a breath during her event. 

When practices started in December, the first-year coach found himself leading four lanes full of mostly-new swimmers, including a full contingent of freshmen.

“They pour in some pretty hard workouts compared to where we started,” he said. “We were doing less than a mile the first practice.”

Since then, the swimmers’ technique has improved, alongside their stamina, he said. 

Stroke mechanics have played a huge role as the team’s times have taken a dive, he said.

“Little things add up to awful times,” he said. 

The mental element of gearing up for a meet has also been a battle for the new swimmers, he said. 

“It can be nerve wracking to try to figure out what lane and what heat you are and whether your goggles are going to stay on when you hit the water,” he said. “We had a kid that kept forgetting their swimsuit.”

But, through the tough practices, he said he’s seen real growth. In fact, he said some of the team’s freshmen have been the driving force, even pushing upperclassmen to train harder.

Smith said newcomers Reagan Taylor and Natalie Stalker “have both really taken off this season.”

Meanwhile, freshman Kyla Ewing has steadily learned and gotten better, he said. 

“There are definitely days after practices where I think I’m going to lose somebody,” he said. “But, they show up. And they show up early. They’re in the pool warming up before practice begins. They’re eager and they’re hungry and they’re passionate about it. They want to get better.”

Planning for the next day’s practice, Smith said he had one main goal in mind when picking the workout the team had done before.

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Raegan Taylor prepares for a flip turn. 

“I want to show them how far they’ve come,” he said. 

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