8/22/2013 3:39:00 PM Marauders swim team fortifies mental game for season Depth on girls team, experience on boys prime Mingus for strong showing at state
Senior Monica Soliz swims down her lane during practice. Head coach Brendon Kenney named Soliz one of the captains for the girls team for the 2013 season. Soliz was also very active with the Cottonwood Clippers over the summer. VVN/Travis Guy
Coaches Brendon Kenney (right) and Tyler Novak (left) watch as the Mingus Union swim team practices their strokes for the approaching season. VVN/Travis Guy
After getting a "head start" by swimming with the Cottonwood Clippers during the summer, the returning members of the Mingus Union swim team have been able to focus on the mental side of the sport.
"It prepares you for the rest of the season, so you don't get that, where you start off and you start off slow the first two weeks or whatever, you get a head start," said senior captain Dylan Wilber.
The Marauders did not have the same summer program that other teams had. Instead of optional workouts through the summer months, many of the swimmers were a part of the Clippers. The student-athletes were able to compete against swimmers they will swim against during the season, and get on a training schedule during the summer with practices beginning early in the morning.
"It really works out well because they kind of take that seriously," said Mingus head coach Brendon Kenney. "They know they're swimming against some competition that gets to swim year round, and they do have to put in that work over the summer, and they wake up, get there and practice at 6 a.m. and take it seriously, so its something that works out really well for the high school program."
Despite not being able to be there as much as they would have liked, captains Shannon Knowles and Wilber made the most of their time there by training harder at practices and swimming more intense at meets than they had in previous years.
"I think I progressed a little bit more than I did last year, because when I was actually at practice I was working a lot harder than I was last year," Knowles said.
Wilber made it to one meet over the summer, the Verde Valley Invitational, and swam in the 50-meter freestyle. The senior finished fourth behind teammate Sean Williams and former Marauder Ryan Adams.
Adams was an integral part of the 2012 team, according to Kenney, and swam the relays and the backstroke. Despite losing Adams, Williams, Wilber and sophomore Caleb Furey returned for 2013. Those three joined Adams at state as part of the two relay teams that went.
Senior Jared Cutshaw will be looked upon to fill the role vacated by Adams. He is a four-year swimmer who made "great summer improvements," Kenney said.
The four swimmers, who are also the four returners for the boys' squad, should provide Mingus with a core leadership group that Kenney hopes will do well in meets and have a strong showing at state.
"We are returning Dylan, who's going to be a senior, and he's a very strong leader, and we also have Sean Williams and Caleb Furey, as sophomores, who swam very well for us last year," Kenney said. "I fully expect Jared Cutshaw, he's been working incredibly hard to start the year, and he's going to step into that role on the boys' side as well."
Outside of those four, the boys' swim team will be lacking experience. The rest of the roster, 10 students, is made up of newcomers to the sport with less than a year's experience. That is not to say that none of the new swimmers will be able to contribute to the team. Of the 10, half are seniors and one is a junior. Of those six, senior Bradley Gemmill was part of the track and field team in 2011 and 2013, and senior Ryan Talbot is a state place winner in the 400-meter race, giving the Marauders a boost in athleticism.
"We have a bunch of new swimmers this year, so I think we're going to do pretty good," Wilber said.
While the boy's side may be lacking experience this year, the girls' squad is in the opposite position. Of the 24 swimmers on Kenney's roster, only nine are in their first year of swimming.
The girls will be anchored by senior captains Monica Soliz and Knowles. The two captains, along with senior Francesca Settanni and junior Leah Mount, were all part of the relay teams representing the Marauders at state in 2012. There are seven seniors on the team that have at least two years experience, and Courtney Warner and Kristina Stuart both improved over the summer with the Clippers, according to Kenney.
"One thing we're very thrilled about is that this is a very strong senior class of girls," Kenney said. "Leadership from ... Shannon, Monica, Francesca Settanni and Courtney Warner, they are four-year swimmers, we fully expect them to show some of the younger kids some of the ropes, and everything."
All three of Kenney's captains have welcomed the role of leaders on the team and bring a similar perspective to the position. Soliz said they have to be there for the younger students-athletes, helping them come along and offering motivation and encouragement to them. Knowles sees the team as one bug family and Wilber agrees with both of his fellow seniors.
"We're like the parents of the family," Knowles said. "A big family, a bunch of friends, its awesome."
With his older swimmers, Kenney has been spending more time building their mental acumen by making sure they know the state automatic-qualifying times, instead of hitting a provisional, or consideration, mark. Another way the coach does this is by scheduling meets and tournaments with some of the best teams in the state. Many of the high schools Mingus will be swimming against finished ahead of it at the Division-I state meet, and the Marauders will be traveling to two tournaments, and hosting another.
"This year we've talked a lot about mentally knowing we can hang with the best swimmers in the state," Kenney said. "If we work hard every day in practice, we have all the talent and ability to swim automatic times. Piggybacking on that, once we are at the state meet ... getting through the preliminary day, and having more people compete in the finals, in that top-16 group of the individual events and the top-12 of the relay events, because we know that we have the ability to do it. We know that we have the work ethic to do it, and just taking the right mentality towards achieving those goals of automatic times and second day of state competition."
Goals help the swimmers with their mental game, giving them something to reach for. For Mingus, its goals are to qualify the three relay teams on both sides and hit the automatic-qualifying times for the individual Marauders that have the potential to make it to state.
"I want to make sure that we're strong and constantly progressing, so that we can actually make it to the second day," Soliz said. "The second day is like the top goal, its like main priority here."
Before the Marauders go to state, they will travel to an invitational that everyone, swimmers to Kenney, is looking forward to, the Brophy Swim Invite. The invitational brings together some of the top teams in the state, and it is where all three captains qualified for state, and swam PR's, in 2012.
"Last year, I think all three of us (Monica, Shannon and Dylan) got our PR's at that, well we qualified for state at that meet," Soliz said.
Kenney is excited to see his team at Brophy because of how the competition pushed them in 2012 to swim to the best of their abilities.
"There's about 50 teams from the state of Arizona that compete, and it's incredibly fun for the kids," Kenney said. "Last year they swam very, very well there, top to bottom, stood toe to toe with some of the best swimmers in the state."
Aside from the three meets the team will hold, the Marauders will also be hosting the Marauder Invite. It is a state-qualifying event that Kenney said is almost a Northern Arizona regional meet. The invitational brings together high schools from Prescott, all the way to Fredonia High School, on the Arizona/Utah border.
"We're kind of excited because it's a group we really enjoy competing against. We get to compete against them in some dual meets, three-way meets, so it will be nice to try and have that qualifying meet with teams we really enjoy, and see, on a regular basis."
The start of the season also brings the end to an ordeal for Kenney and the team. Mingus Union reached an agreement with the City of Cottonwood regarding the cost of using the pool during the season, and the coach is now able to focus on his swimmers and advancing them to state.
"It's nice to have that over," Kenney said. "We do know that its going to ... we're going to keep working through it, after the season, we'll hit the ground running. We do have some things going on during the season, obviously the qualifying meet is one thing we're doing to try and help with that. We want to show that this facility, as well as the programs with the Clippers and the high school, are a great boon to this community and bring some great publicity and outside influences."