The Shawano Hawks boys swim team has jumped out to a fast 6-1 start on the season and have been turning some heads as of late. The Hawks feature a balance of experience and youth on their team with 21 total swimmers, six of them being seniors.
Head coach Jeff Easter says it’s been a luxury having the veterans take the younger swimmers, some relatively new to the sport, underneath their wing.
“A lot of the older guys that have been doing this for four years now, I won’t even ask them, I’ll just turn around and see them with their arm around one of the younger guys, saying hey try this, do this, or change that,” Easter said of his veteran leaders. “That’s the kind of stuff I love to see because that young swimmer is going to look to that older swimmer a lot more so than he’ll look to me sometimes and really try to emulate what they’re seeing and learning.”
One of the Senior leaders on the team is Griffin Rades, a state-qualifier who recently just etched his name in the school record books by posting a 5:18 time during the 500 Freestyle, beating the previous record by a full second. Rades says of the team, it’s the close bond that they share, that makes them a special group.
“I think that we’re doing a great job on our relays and trying to improve our individuals every single race,” said Rades. “We’re real connected and well-rounded. We have some good guys in every event, so that’s really a benefit for us. We’re able to out-touch other people and just focus on techniques and take the win.”
Shawano boys swimming has consistently put together strong seasons in recent years. Coming into the season coach Easter said he knew this year’s team would have talent, but wasn’t sure how they’d fare against their conference opposition. So far, he’s been pleased with the results.
“I knew we had a really good team,” said Easter of this year’s group. “I wasn’t sure what they other teams were going to be like, as far as strength in our conference. As we’ve gone through the conference, we’ve found that we’re a lot stronger than these other teams. Again, we’re looking at Lakeland and really licking our chops for that one.”
Lakeland was the school to hand Shawano its only loss of the season back in December, and stands in their way of capturing the conference crown, a goal they set out to achieve in the beginning of the season. Griffin Rades believes Shawano will be ready next Thursday when they see Lakeland again.
“Winning conference, we’re right on track to get that,” Rades explained. “We just have to take Lakeland, which is the only team that beat us. We had a couple of close finishes where they out-touched us and I’m hoping this time it can be the other way around and we can win. We have more people than them, so at the conference meet, we have the ability to score more points because the points go farther, so we have a good chance at that then.”
While the team gears up for the homestretch of the season, they’re close to setting a few other school records, such as the 200-freestyle relay, but they also have goals of taking conference and sending swimmers to the state meet in Madison, both of which seem to be within their grasp.