Injuries will shorten the Perry girls swimming roster to just seven athletes this season, with three new freshmen in the mix.
Despite the small roster and relative youth of the program, veteran head coach Jean Dowd anticipates a strong season from her Jayettes.
“If you are just going by age and by number of varsity meets they have competed in, you might be right to be a little worried,” she said. “However, these girls have been swimming on the summer and winter teams for years, so they know what it is like to swim competitively and clearly they enjoy being in the pool.”
Senior captain Haley Vaughn, who helped coach the off-season teams, will be the leader in the pool and on the deck for Perry. She returns with the lowest times on the roster in the 50 freestyle, 100 butterfly, 100 breaststroke and 200 individual medley.
Breanna Penenger returns in the 500 free and was second on the roster in the 200 free.
No returning member posted a top-four time in the 100 free or the 100 backstroke, which was the province of Vivian Gonzalez, who will miss the season with an injury.
Looking to step into key roles will be freshmen Sarah Vaughn, Dannah Karolus and Avery Miner, with returner Anna Ridnour and newcomer Kiara Francis also figuring into the mix.
“I like the combination of talent and personalities I have seen so far,” Dowd said. “Haley is definitely a leader and is going to provide a calming influence and someone besides the coach the girls can go to with questions or concerns.
“Obviously she is going to be extremely important for us in the pool, and not just in scoring points, but in practices as well,” the coach added. “She is someone the team can look at to see how to manage situations.”
Having the summer Olympics playing out during the same week the team was in beginning preparations was a positive, Dowd said.
“We all watched every night and talked about it the next day,” she said. “It has not been very hard to motivate them.”
Dowd said her focus would remain what it has always been: seeking improvement from one meet to the next.
“I want to see the girls push themselves to be as fast and as consistent as they can be,” she stated. “It is important that they not settle for a specific result. If they have a time-target in mind and reach it, they need to reset it and chase that new time. That is what (assistant Melanie) coach Harmon and I are looking for — constant improvement and the drive that creates it.”
Last season the Jayettes did not compete in the McCreary Community Building pool until late September, but this season will be quite different, as Perry hosts Algona Thursday. They are then idle until a September 6 visit from Boone and Algona, the second of four times Perry will compete against Algona this season. Other home dates included October 4 with Grinnell and (guess who?) Algona, with Des Moines North and Des Moines Hoover visiting October 6. New to the schedule is Atlantic, who Perry visits October 11.
“I think having those early home meets will be good for us,” Dowd said. “It will help us feel grounded and centered — all of these girls have spent a lot of time swimming in meets in this pool.”
The coach was also quick to note that appearances can be deceiving.
“This is a group that likes to joke around a bit, to laugh and be a little silly at times,” she said. “However, when the time comes they can be very competitive and driven. Last year we had time drops all the way through the season and I am confident we are going to see the same thing from this group this year.”
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