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South Kitsap swimmers get outdoor experience | Girls swim preview

Joe Knowles Stadium is far from an ideal location to practice the backstroke and butterfly even when it rains.

But that is where South Kitsap’s swim and dive team was relegated to for the first two weeks of practice as the school’s pool undergoes maintenance.

“It’s really frustrating,” senior captain Paige Pearsall said. “We don’t get to work on any of our technique.”

Third-year coach Cliff Rousell said the lack of a facility presents some challenges, particularly when it comes to gauging where some of his swimmers might best fit, but added that the Wolves can use the time outside to get an aerobic workout.

“We have no water for our first two weeks, so we’re focused on conditioning,” he said. “It’s not what we like, but it’s what we’ll work with.”

For the first time in Rousell’s tenure, South will not return a state competitor. Hannah Straavaldson, Ashlee Becker, Angela Pearson and Kelsey Bagley all graduated in 2011, while four-time state participant Nicole Hinely earned her diploma last spring. Rousell said Pearsall and sophomore Zoe DeSmet represented the Wolves’ “best shot” of reaching state.

Both reached districts last fall with DeSmet making the cut in the 50-yard freestyle at the league meet.

“She’ll definitely be someone we can add around to boost up our relay,” Rousell said.

While no standout has emerged, Rousell is excited about the program’s depth. He had 47 swimmers last week and expected that number to reach 50. In addition to DeSmet and Pearsall, captain Svea Van Parys returns in the backstroke and freestyle. Other notable returners include seniors Madison Kehl (200 and 500 individual medley) and Emma Straavaldson (500 freestyle). All advanced to the league meet.

“That’s a good building block for us,” Rousell said. “We may have lost some front-end speed, but we’ve got a very solid core.”

He said that extends to younger swimmers, but he was reticent to suggest any newcomers who might help without seeing them in the water.

“We have coverage in all of the events,” Rousell said. “That will help us build a complete roster.”

That extends to the dive team, which he expects to be a strength even after graduating Hannah Luer. Senior Hannah Waterman returns along with classmate Serena Caraska, who contributed last year after transferring from Peninsula High School. Kaylee Broussard, a junior, also is back. She dove for the first time in 2011.

“She’s an up-and-comer,” Rousell said.

In addition to being without a pool, Rousell said there were some recent issues that have adjusted South’s schedule. He said one benefit of that is the Wolves will get some pool time before the schedule starts.

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