South Kitsap swimmers eye berth in state tournament

"Concern there would even be a season for the South Kitsap High School boys swimming team was laid to rest when the school hired Coretta Hoffman as coach in the 11th hour.With last year’s mentor, C.J. Scott, working on his masters degree, SK was scrambling to find a coach. Hoffman, who teaches at the school, said she was asked in the fall by diving coach Cathy Gangnes if she was interested.“At first I said, ‘No, I have a 15-month old baby,’” Hoffman said. “But they didn’t have anybody, didn’t have anybody, didn’t haven anybody, and it was Monday before practice was supposed to start. So I said if you can’t get anybody, I’ll do it because I’d rather do it than have them cancel the season.”Hoffman was hired three days before the season was to start. She said she made the right decision.“I’ve had a blast and we have a great group of guys,” she reported, though 17 varsity swimmers graduated from last year and this year’s team has only 21 members.But Hoffman said the numbers are better now then the beginning of the season.The team had only eight turnouts on the first day of practice, but the swimmers and Hoffman were able to talk it up and more guys came out.“Right now we don’t have a lot of depth,” she said. “We have some really strong guys, a few mid-range guys, but we don’t have the depth.”Leading the way are seniors Chris Breed and Jason Koths, junior Jon Exton and freshman Chris Smith.Exton and Breed are the only returning members of a team that sent eight swimmers to the state meet last year.Exton is already inching close to a state qualifying time in the 100 breaststroke. His 1:04.40 against Stadium last week is four-tenths of a second off the state-standard mark.Breed is looking to make a bigger impact at state this year. He swam on a relay team at state last year, but looks to make state marks in the 200 IM and 100 butterfly.Koths was out of swimming last year but is a contributing factor on a pair of relay teams with Exton and Breed.Smith, making his high school debut, is looking to make marks in the 500 free and relay teams.“Breed and Exton are our two really strong returning guys,” Hoffman said. “Jason (Koths) didn’t swim last year but he is really strong, fast and has good strokes.”Also looking to make a splash is John Miner, Jimmy Ray, newcomer Nick Sampson, Nick Wilson, Ted Bolz and diver Gordon Fowlds.Wilson never swam the 500 free before and qualified for districts, as did Bolz in the 100 backstroke. “We have a whole bunch of sophomores that have just great potential,” Hoffman said. “In two years, they’re going to be really strong.”This is the first head coaching job for Hoffman. A former swimmer for Gig Harbor, the school SK will face Jan. 4 at 3:30 p.m. in a heated Narrows League rivalry, she has been involved with aquatics for more than 15 years.“They know I have a lot swimming experience when it comes to technique and stroke refinement, what they should look like, what we can do to make them go faster,” she said. Halfway through the season, Hoffman is pleased with the improvement of her swimmers. Though the team suffered early season losses to Curtis and Capital, SK hung with the opponents, especially Capital, and came out with a victory at home against Stadium.“Against Curtis, we were looking at personal growth rather than trying to win the meet because Curtis is really strong,” she said. “It didn’t look pretty on paper (130-56), but we had a lot of guys drop times.”"

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