Andover’s girls swimming team tied for sixth last year at the Class 5-1A meet, and Trojans coach Jarred Gaskill said he thinks this year’s team just might be better.
A combined Andover-Andover Central squad finished second in the AV-CTL behind Winfield, and once the teams split the Trojans girls outscored the Vikings by 34 points at state.
Gaskill has nearly everyone back from that team except for junior Riley Flake, who has opted to concentrate on club volleyball.
He’s confident that Andover will be in the hunt for the league title and hopes to exceed last year’s state finish.
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Juniors Meg Plank and Katie League head the Trojans’ returning swimmers, and Gaskill said that he is looking for the two to be a calming force on the freshmen swimmers this season and help them get over an initial case of nervousness.
“Freshmen kind of freak out about it,” he said. “They think the pool is longer. The pool’s the same length, but the competition is better.”
This is where upperclassmen come in, Gaskill said.
“Girls with (state) experience can help the younger ones through it,” he said. “Nerves don’t hurt anything.”
Andover’s recent strong state showings have also helped keep some of the better club swimmers home, Gaskill said.
“We’ve been really lucky with girls,” he said. “It used to be I wouldn’t get all the club swimmers who live in the Andover district. As I’ve been there (Gaskill is in his eighth season), we’ve gotten them.”
Some club swimmers would prefer to swim under the guidance of those coaches, Gaskill said, but he said he prefers to have them at his practices, mainly for them to create relationships with teammates.
“You have to be kind of careful,” he said. “This helps to create a bond and relationship. The more someone’s depending on you, the harder you’re going to work.
“Swimming together as a group helps build relationships.”
Although first-place finishes are nice, Gaskill knows that success at state requires more than that.
“The (small) size of our team really hurt last year,” he said. “This year, we have 20 girls out and it’s looking good.”
As for the Andover Central portion of his team, Gaskill said he is looking forward to having Jaguars sophomore Brooke Dreiling as part of his team once again. A year ago, Dreiling was third in the 500 freestyle and sixth in the 200 freestyle.
“She’s dropped quite a bit of time from there,” he said.