The Gig Harbor Tides lost state-champion Evan Indahl, their No. 1 swimmer from a year ago, to graduation. But the program has a way of reloading.
“I think our expectations remain as they always are,” head coach Mike Kelly said. “We’re going to try to win league and try to win districts, and then try to crack into the top 10 in state. That’s just kind of our foundational goals every year, regardless of personnel.”
The Tides, who placed sixth in the state as a team last season, return a bevy of talented athletes, led by upperclassmen Erik Nielsen, Jackson Curtis, Kellen Furrer, Griffin Doane, Bryce Turley and diver Bastian Weyn.
They also welcome a promising freshman class, led by Dale Williams, Derek Jones and Ryan Grady.
Curtis, a junior who has finished the 200-yard freestyle in 1 minute, 50 seconds, hopes to compete at state in the event and in the 100 butterfly.
“My goal is also to help the team achieve their goals as well, by motivating them at meets and telling them to work hard at practice,” Curtis said. “When we all our achieve our goals, we’re better as a team, and we can accomplish more as a team that way.”
Williams, a freshman who has experience with King County Aquatic Club in Federal Way, already is eyeing the Gig Harbor High School record in the 100 fly -- 52.33.
“I’ve gone that fast, I just need to do that at a high school meet,” he said. “That’ll be a fun goal for me.”
Williams is adjusting to the differences of high school swimming versus club swimming. He said there’s a bigger emphasis placed on racing day in and day out during high school swimming, because dual meets are more frequent.
“I’m really looking forward to being part of the school and part of the team,” Williams said. “I always appreciate the chance to work with different coaches. It’s good prep for swimming in college and beyond.”
Williams has high hopes for the team this year. He pointed to the leadership from upperclassmen as a reason to get excited, but he added the strength of the underclassmen shouldn’t be overlooked, with himself, Jones and others.
“We’ve got pretty good depth throughout the team, especially when it comes to freestyle events,” Williams said.
Kelly has been encouraged by what he’s seen so far. He also spoke about the benefits of the fall water polo program, which kept some of the boys in the pool and in shape for the season.
“That’s kind of one of the side benefits of having the water polo program,” Kelly said. “I knew they were going to be swimming. Being in good physical condition coming into the season, as opposed to previous years, where they sat around from the end of January until the middle of November doing nothing, as high school boys tend to do.”
While the team lost some key second-tier depth, Kelly is optimistic he’ll be able to fill the gaps. If he can do that effectively, he thinks they have the potential to be better than last year.
“Despite the fact that we have a few strong seniors, we still have a lot of youth,” Kelly said. “That’s always fun to work with because they get engaged in the whole philosophy of working hard and putting forth the best effort to improve themselves.
“We have some good leaders on the team,” he added. “Not necessarily seniors, but in all the classes. They’re pretty solid.”
Curtis said the team’s success will have to be earned.
“Everyone on this team has the potential to be better than they are now,” he said. “If we work hard in practice and swim hard at meets, it’s easily achievable. We feel like we can all work together be a better team than we were last year.”Sports reporter Jon Manley can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_jon.