Cougars ready for new season


Sports editor

Central Kitsap boys swim coach Steve LaHaie is excited for his second season, for no reason greater than it’s not his first.

“I’m looking forward to the fact that it’s not my first year,” LaHaie, also a girls assistant coach, said. “Although not everything will go perfect, I think that will help immensely.”

LaHaie’s excitement for this year has nothing to do with CK’s performance in the pool a year ago, as the Cougars were able to advance deep into the postseason, with none performing stronger than returner Seth Parker. Parker took second place at state in the 100-yard breaststroke, setting him up for what LaHaie hopes will be an equally, if not more memorable 2007-08 season.

“Expect another really strong year out of him,” LaHaie said. “I expect him to be right there at state again this year in the breast.”

Parker also took fourth in the 100 free. The Cougars also were able to advance two relays to state: the 200 medley relay and the 200 free relay. What’s exciting about the relay squads is that most every member returns, including Joe Phillips and Kyle Bonnell.

“We have some great expectations for some relays this year, just because of the quality of swimmers we have,” LaHaie said. “I think we can do well within our league this year.”

Other returners to the squad include Ryan Burton, Eric Reichel, Albert Taylor and diver Alex Dohoda.

But that’s about it.

Of CK’s 24 guys, everyone else is new to the team.

“Absolutely,” LaHaie said. “We started Monday with practice. I’m real excited. We have a bunch of new guys. That’s exciting in itself. We’ve got new freshmen, some new sophomores.”

But he said just because they’re new doesn’t mean they’re inexperienced.

“The bulk of the guys have swam somewhere before,” he said. “And we’ve got some new guys this year who are freshmen that have some background. We have plenty of experience.”

For example, take Jeremy Torres and Tyler Hirata, both of whom are new to CK, but not the pool, swimming for the Olympic Aquatic Center (OAC) club team.

“Those are a couple guys to look out for,” LaHaie said. “They’re very familiar already.”

But with new team members, LaHaie will still have new tasks at hand.

“New guys, new challenges,” he said. “It’s a big diverse group. I’m just looking at them and seeing what they can do. Really we’re just trying to get an idea of what each guy is capable of.”

The biggest challenge is space, as Olympic and Central Kitsap share the OAC pool.

“Our first challenge is pool space,” he said. “We’ve got 20-some guys this year when last year, really we had 12-plus divers. And we’re sharing the pool with Oly, so we only have three lanes. But we’ll make do.”

With those new challenges comes a big breath of relief for LaHaie too.

“Absolutely. I was very concerned last year,” he said. “Really, I had juniors, seniors, two sophomores and a freshman. It was like, ‘Oh my gosh. This is gonna be a real challenge.’ But this year we’ve got a very good mix.”

As for divers, Dohoda may be joined this year as Phillips is considering taking it up as well.

“Joe Phillips may,” LaHaie said. “We’ll see. He’s not sure yet.”

But again, it all comes back to Parker.

“He’s such a good all-around swimmer,” LaHaie said. “I think he’ll qualify in a couple more events this year.”

With a little more hard work, LaHaie said Parker could leave an even greater mark on CK school history, as he’s closing in on Adam Matthew’s 1995 record of 58.04 seconds in the breast. Parker’s state time a year ago was 58.68.

“And there’s that school record sitting right at his fingertips,” LaHaie said. “I hope he’s able to break that record. I think he’s very capable.”

LaHaie said he’s also excited at the prospect of sending more guys with Parker back to the postseason.

“I think we should take some guys to leagues this year,” he said. “And we should take some to district this year. And I’d love to take all three relays to state. And Joe has aspirations to make it to state as an individual this year.”

Regardless, LaHaie said the ride should be an enjoyable one.

“I’m just looking forward to getting going, finding out how we’ll match up,” he said. “I think it’s gonna be fun.”

CK opens up the boys swim season with a home meet at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29 at OAC.

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