by John Unrein
Five o’clock in the morning may come awful early for some. It’s just another start to practice for the Eagles Boys Swimming Team. Sixteen student athletes complete laps in the pool and attempt complex twists and turns from the diving board at the Blue Springs YMCA in preparation for the upcoming season. The Grain Valley High School Swim and Dive program is led by head coach Kara Liddle.
“I’m super excited that we are starting the season with a group of kids that have swam a year. Building good habits in the pool by correcting little things that will allow us to go faster is our focus. We are weeks ahead of were we were last year at this time,” Liddle said.
“Swimming is a mental sport. You are in your own head a lot. Learning how to push yourself to get past pain is significant. Same goes with diving. I couldn’t get up there and throw myself off the board the way they do. I think in both arenas of this sport you have to be mentally tough.”
A third-place finish in the Suburban Conference last season, along with three state qualifiers is the momentum the program would like to seize and build upon. Eli Hendricks finishing 4th in Class I Diving along with Wyatt Huffman finishing 14th in the 100-meter breaststroke were positive catalysts for a new program.
Senior Swimmer Jase Tipton along with fellow Senior Diver Jonathan Bailey are excited about the possibilities of the new season. “Many of us were on the State cut by only being points or seconds off last year. That’s a big motivator for our team is to have as many of us as possible make State cut this year,” Tipton said. Bailey agreed with Tipton’s assessment. “We are here to improve from last year and our coaches are pushing us harder,” Bailey said.
Both Tipton and Bailey are enjoying the friendships and the insights gained through swimming and diving. “You get to meet a lot of new people and can make lifetime friends. I have buddies that swim at Park Hill that I met at a meet. We’ll go work out or get a burger together,” Tipton said. “I like how we can get tips on diving from other competitors. Someone may have more experience than you and they will usually share,” Bailey said.
Encouragement can be heard both by coaches and fellow teammates during practice over the multitude of splashes and movement of feet on both the concrete and diving board. It seems to provide a sort of serene chaos for those who compete in this arena. Getting up at 4:30 am or practicing multiple times a day are all challenges that roll like water off a duck’s back.
“I love getting to share my love for the sport. I went to Grain Valley and this is what I grew up doing. Being able to start and continue this program is a joy. We get to spread the love for being in the water,” Liddle said.
The Grain Valley High School Boys Swim and Dive Team will kick off their season with their first meet on Wednesday, September 4th.