SK counting on a mix of youth and experience

With the core nucleus returning from a team that finished eighth at the Class 4A state boys swimming finals last year, there are plenty of reasons for South Kitsap coach Dennis Anderson to smile.

But behind that smile is a hint of fear of the unknown and unproven rookies who will have to step in and produce immediately if the Wolves are to build on last year’s success.

“Last year we had a little bit of everything,” Anderson said. “We had some beginners, some of those intermediate guys that were real good for the dual meets, and we had four top state guys.

“This year we have the beginners but we don’t have the middle group, so the dual meets will be a little tougher,” Anderson said. “We’ll scratch and claw out as many wins as we can. That’s kind of the way it’s looking.”

Returning for the Wolves is a trio of juniors that placed at last year’s state meet, led by Greg Mercer who finished seventh in the 100-yard freestyle and 10th in the 50-yard freestyle. Throw in Corey Smith, who was ninth in the 200-yard free and 12th in the 100-yard free, and Nick Dargel, who helps anchor the Wolves’ 200- and 400-yard free relay teams, and Anderson has the core group needed to make another run at the state meet.

South Kitsap cruised along last year, going 8-2 in dual meets, placing third at the West Central District meet and posted an eighth-place finish at state.

“We pretty much had it all last year,” Anderson said. “Once we get to districts and state (this year), we should fare pretty well.”

Getting to that point will be the challenge not only for Anderson but for Mercer, Dargel and Smith, who will all pick up the slack and lead the team.

“Basically, the depth is where we’re hurting,” Anderson said. “We’ll be counting on guys that have never swam or even dreamed of swimming some events, that will be in those events from the very first meet.

“And that’s a big difference from other years,” Anderson said. “Usually, I have people to fill all the events. This year, we’re going to have to have the little guys step it up a little bit.”

Mercer will go in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle again as well as swimming a leg on both relays. Dargel will swim the 100-yard backstroke. He just missed on a the state qualifying time last year — both relays — and may get a shot at the 200-yard IM.

Smith returns in the 100- and 200-yard free and will most likely pick up another event as well.

“All my guys placed in every event last year (at the state meet),” Anderson said. “It’s kind of cool.”

Besides qualifying for the state meet, which all three should have no problem doing, Anderson said he would like to see some school records fall.

Mercer set the school record in the 50-yard freestyle last year at 22.09 seconds and has a shot at the 100-yard free record time of 47.99

Smith was a few seconds off the 200-yard free mark of 1:45.87, while the group, along with Charles Smith, just missed the 200-yard free relay record of 1:30.98 by four-tenths of a second.

“They are all faster this year, obviously,” Anderson said. “I don’t see why, no matter who I add as the fourth person on that relay, we couldn’t get the relay record.”

Anderson said senior Greg Porter will get a look as the fourth member of the relay team.

Divers Brad Devaney and Dan Harver return, making that part of team solid, An-derson said.

“You never know with these guys,” Anderson said. “They always seem to come through. We just hope they keep doing that.

“They’re a good bunch of guys, they work hard,” Anderson said. “Not a lot of experience for most of them, but they’re nice guys and they like to work. They’re good listeners and they want to learn, so that helps a lot.”

The Wolves open the year Dec. 9 with a dual meet against Gig Harbor at the South Kitsap pool.

The district meet is Feb. 6-7 while the state meet will be held Feb. 20-21 at the King County Aquatic Center.

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