The Marshall Tigers swimming and diving team is riding a wave of momentum entering the 2012 season.
After finishing a school-best sixth at the 2011 Class A state meet, the Tigers return four of five swimmers that qualified for the meet.
"When you have a good season, you're always looking on to the next season, wanting to better yourself and to better the team," head coach Nicole Peterson said. "I can definitely feel the momentum going into this next season."
With just six swimmers lost to graduation and one to transfer, the Tigers will have a lot of familiar faces around the pool. Standing out among those faces will be the returning state qualifiers.
Sophomores Kylie Vermeire and Ashley Dunn return alongside a pair of seniors in McKenzie Vermeire and Abby Surprenant. The younger Vermeire won medals in both the 200- and 500-yard freestyle at the state meet (finishing fifth and sixth, respectively). She joined Dunn and McKenzie Vermeire as they earned medals as part of the Tigers' 200 and 400 freestyle relay teams (seventh and fifth-place finishes). The elder Vermeire also won a medal in the 100 backstroke as an individual. Surprenant also qualified for state in the event, but did not medal.
Their success at the state meet provides more for the team than a stable of solid swimmers. They have become a calming force for the younger swimmers in and out of the pool.
"It's always helpful to have people that have gotten to the state meet and had that experience, who know what to expect going into a big competition like that, and what it takes to even get there," Peterson said. "It's so helpful. It sets a good tone and good example for the rest of the team."
The team's success has also helped grow program. Peterson said that there were 14 or 15 brand new swimmers on the team in 2012.
"That's created a new environment, a fun environment for us at practice," Peterson said. "It's just going to be fun to see what they can do, what they can accomplish."
Before the team gets ahead of itself, however, it does have to replace some mainstays of recent teams. Kalin Webskowski and Kayla Sawchak, captains from the 2011 team, graduated after solid careers for Marshall. Also gone is Marcela Sanchez-Aizcorbe, who moved to Texas over the summer after captured four medals for the Tigers at the 2011 state meet.
According to Peterson, graduations and transfers come with the territory.
"I'm always looking ahead," Peterson said. "There are some good opportunities for some girls to step into some roles. At practice I've already seen some leadership come out of some of those girls. We are really looking forward to watching what they can accomplish and what they can contribute to the team."
The Tigers dive into the 2012 season on Saturday when they travel to section rival and perennial swimming power Hutchinson for the Hutchinson Invitational.