The future looks bright for CEC swimmingGreat days lie ahead for the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton girls swimming program.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
Great days lie ahead for the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton girls swimming program.
Coach Stacia Grayson is excited about the 33 girls who came out for the program this year – including one very talented sophomore who is ready to make waves in the seasons to come.
“I think since I started coaching in 2009, this is one of the best seasons we’ve had,” Grayson said. “We are growing in numbers, the girls are putting in time in the off-season and it’s starting to show. We made huge improvements this year.”
The team had four seniors – Allison Denman, who didn’t swim due to surgery before the season, Johnna Bottila, who hurt her shoulder halfway through the season, Kristina Erickson and Hannali Takkunen.
“Johnna was with us off and on as her injury permitted,” Grayson said. “She was nursing it but was able to swim at sections so that was great.”
“Kristina was really a strong leader, with a great work ethic, and was our rock throughout this season,” Grayson said. “She put the time in and helped get the girls going. Hannali was one of our organizers and really worked hard to get to sections too. The seniors put their time in and it rubbed off on the rest of the girls.”
Nineteen of the program’s 33 swimmers are freshmen or younger, which further excites Grayson about the future.
“We have lots of middle school kids,” she said. “It would be awesome to have a summer program in Cloquet to get them swimming. It’s hard to get to Duluth for their club teams and summer swimming would help improve our team.”
That’s important for the development of swimmers like sophomore freestyler Lexus Wysocki, a converted backstroker who made huge strides this year.
“Lexus had an incredible year,” Grayson said. “Having her on the team showed the other girls that we can do well. She shaved two full seconds off her time in the 50 free which is great, and about four seconds off her time in the 100 free.”
Key to that, and to helping Grayson, was the volunteer assistance of longtime Monticello coach Tom Cannon.
“He has a cabin in Barnum and he wanted to help us,” Grayson said. “It was great and we all learned from him. Lexus talking to Tom really helped and we helped her work some things out, small things that can make a big difference. She realizes how good she can be and that inspires the other girls.”
Grayson also said the team is a tight-knit group and that helps with retaining the swimmers for next season.
“I know the girls love being a part of the team, so we make sure it’s fun for them,” Grayson said. “Lots of them come to practice to see their friends and visit, but as they continue to grow as swimmers they realize it’s fun to do well in the sport. That takes time to build as a program and we are working on it.”
Future program growth is also helped by 2012 being an Olympic year, with swimming shown on television quite a bit.
“I was wondering how it would affect the season,” Grayson said. “Some girls came out because they saw swimming, and let’s face it, (American swimmer) Ryan Lochte was a big draw for teenage girls. Our numbers for middle school girls have grown each year I’ve been with the program, and that always helps.”