CEC swimmers are packing the lanesStacia Grayson has a healthy problem. When she took over the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton girls swimming program two years ago, only 14 girls came out for the team. This August, she counted 32.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
CLOQUET – Stacia Grayson has a healthy problem. When she took over the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton girls swimming program two years ago, only 14 girls came out for the team.
This August, she counted 32.
“It’s great,” said Grayson outside of Herb Drew Pool during practice last week. “I was overwhelmed by the amount of people we got this year.”
Although Grayson noted that swimmers are basically everywhere making practice agendas tighter than in the past, she’s looking forward to teaching the sport, especially with the younger ones.
“We’re a young team,” said Grayson, who will be assisted again by Kayla Cresap and Brittney Kemi, a recent graduate. “But we’re building it up. It’s going to be a challenge, but it’s something I’m looking forward to.”
Grayson mentioned that the vast growth in the program over the past couple seasons has been the girls’ involvement in the North Shore Swim Club in Duluth during the off-season. With North Shore, swimming becomes year-round for some girls.
“It takes a lot of dedication to go back-and-forth,” said Grayson of the frequent travel from Cloquet, Esko or Carlton to Duluth.
Those who have put in that dedication are senior captains Jolynne Denman and Kayla Whipple. The pair both participate in North Shore and will both be looked upon to lead the Lumberjacks in the pool this year.
“Jolynne swims with a lot of heart; it is fun to watch her swim,” said Grayson of her distance specialist. “And Kayla is really looking strong. She’s a sprinter who is looking to touch some of the school records this year.”
Records or not, Whipple loves to swim. She’s now in her fifth season with the varsity.
“I remember when there were 14 of us,” said Whipple, who specializes in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle races and is a member of the 200- and 400-yard relay teams. “I remember when we used to take a short bus to meets. But this year the lanes are packed and girls are filing off the team bus. I definitely think we’re going to surprise some teams with the numbers we have.”
Denman, in her fourth year on varsity, is happy to see the growth of something that isn’t a mainstream sport.
“The girls are stepping up to the plate,” said Denman, a relay racer, as well as a 200- and 500-yard freestyle distance competitor. “I feel very blessed to see all of these girls packing the lanes.”
Both Denman and Whipple are two of seven returning section swimmers from last year, including seniors Cori Pelletier, Whitney Wysocki, juniors Alison Denman and Kristina Erickson, and freshman Lexus Wysocki.
Grayson has a lot to lean on.
“We have some strong sprinters and distance girls,” said Grayson. “We have the older girls who know their strokes and know what they’re doing, but we are also looking at some new swimmers to
Perhaps CEC’s strongest event is their 200-yard relay team, which finished just three seconds away from qualifying for the state meet last year.
Although Aimee Goldschmidt graduated from the squad, Alison Denman, Erickson and Whipple are returning with that speedy four-girl team.
This fall, they want to go all the way.
“We’re still trying to find that fourth swimmer,” said Whipple, “but our varsity team is strong and I definitely think we’ll do well.”
“I have a gut feeling they will,” added Jolynne Denman about her younger sister’s
relay team. “Everyone wants them to.”
With their relay as their centerpiece, Grayson noted her CEC bunch has talent in all areas, including the butterfly, breaststroke, backstroke, freestyle sprints and distance as well as medleys.
Even if they had to practice at Proctor for a week. Yes, Proctor. Due to a malfunction at Herb Drew Pool at the Cloquet Middle School during mid-August, Grayson and her girls were forced to get together elsewhere while repairs were being made.
“I think it was the filtration system pump or something like that,” said Grayson with a laugh. “We’re hopefully good to go, but we kind of limped along there for a bit.”
With 32 girls and tons of talent and experience, that’s not the case anymore.
“Before we were bringing girls up to varsity that probably weren’t ready,” Grayson continued. “But just having a bigger team helps now. It’s exciting.”
The Lumberjacks opened their season with a 122-60 loss at Two Harbors Tuesday, with Whipple winning the 50 freestyle in 27.76 seconds, and the 200 freestyle team of Alison Denman, Lexus Wysocki, Erickson and Whipple winning in 1:52.67.
CEC’s first home meet is at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 20, at Herb Drew Pool.