Sports

Swim team coming of age

Taylor Rousell, top left, Brandon Dravis and Justin Slezak all advanced to state as sophomores last season. - Jesse Beals/ Staff Photo
Taylor Rousell, top left, Brandon Dravis and Justin Slezak all advanced to state as sophomores last season.
— image credit: Jesse Beals/ Staff Photo

t Experience, new training regimen make SK a force to be reckoned with this season.

When Tami Lester-Dame took over the South Kitsap boys swimming team in 2006, she also arguably inherited the most talented core of young athletes in the program’s history.

Now that group is upperclassmen, the expectations around the program are high.

Lester not only feels a top-10 finish at state is possible — she thinks the Wolves could place in the first five.

But she also wants a win on Jan. 15 at Gig Harbor.

“Beating Gig Harbor is as big as finishing in the top five at state,” Lester-Dame said. “They want that because we’ve never beat Gig Harbor.”

Juniors Brandon Dravis (100-yard breaststroke, 200 individual medley), Taylor Rousell (sprint freestyle, 100 butterfly) and Justin Slezak (200 individual medley, 100 breaststroke) in addition to seniors Danny DeRego (sprint and distance freestyle), Zac Joachim (sprint freestyle) and Brandon Lester (sprint and distance freestyle) all advanced to state last season.

“They continue to amaze me with their strength and ability,” said Lester-Dame, noting that DeRego nows swims the 100 freestyle in 50 seconds, down three seconds from two years ago. “You would think that they would plateau after swimming their whole lives, but that hasn’t happened.”

With the assistance of South football coach D.J. Sigurdson and others, the Wolves changed their training program to include more dry-land work. Lester-Dame said those workouts mostly were restricted to strength lifts in the past.

This year, the team has concentrated on cardiovascular and explosive-power lifts.

“With the cardio and biometrics training, you’re going to see a difference in speed,” Lester-Dame said. “At least I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”

Lester, who is a captain along with DeRego, is the only significant returner who played football during the fall. He likes the new workout program, but said it always is a challenge to transition because most of the swimmers are year-round competitors.

DeRego doesn’t have the same issue. He said there’s extra motivation this season because he wants to compete at the collegiate level. And there also is the Gig Harbor factor.

“That’s one of our main goals,” he said. “We’ll put up a fight.”

In addition to the returning swimmers, Lester-Dame likes her divers even though they’re inexperienced. Senior Mike Cink, a wrestler last season, might be the team’s top contender.

“I told him that if you don’t make state as a wrestler, you’re going to turn out for diving,” Lester-Dame said.

Sophomores Zeke Oliver and Joe Rose dive. Oliver previously competed outside school as a gymnast.

Lester-Dame also said the team has benefited from its continuity together. South’s 200 medley relay team — Slezak, Dravis, Rousell and DeRego — placed fifth at state in 1 minute, 42.84 seconds last season.

Snohomish won the event in 1:36.87, and Lester-Dame feels her team could take first this season.

“Because they’ve been training together for so long, they know each other,” she said. “They all push each other. I’m very fortunate to have this group.”

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