Smaller-than-usual Trojans still packing quite a punch

Olympic’s Kelly Fitzgerald won the 200 IM on Thursday against Port Townsend, recording a time of 2 minutes, 22.19 seconds. She placed eighth at the 3A state meet in the breaststroke a year ago. - Photo by Aaron Managhan
Olympic’s Kelly Fitzgerald won the 200 IM on Thursday against Port Townsend, recording a time of 2 minutes, 22.19 seconds. She placed eighth at the 3A state meet in the breaststroke a year ago.
— image credit: Photo by Aaron Managhan

Olympic girls swim coach Paul Henderson is wondering how October is already here. After all, Thursday’s 103-56 win against Port Townsend at the Olympic Aquatic Center marked the midpoint for area swimmers.

“I’m still trying to figure out where the summer went,” Henderson said. “Then, the whole season’s gone. We’re already down to single-digit practices for the girls. Now it’s just trying to fine tune.”

The Trojans are hoping that although they have a smaller group this season, they can still be affective competitors in the pool. Henderson said this year’s team is now down to about 20 after starting with 30.

“It’s a good group of girls,” Henderson said. “They’re a smaller bunch.”

But that doesn’t mean they don’t pack a punch.

“It’s a good mix,” Henderson said. “There’s some new swimmers learning the ropes. And some returning swimmers that have started where they left off last season. It’s great to see.”

Leading the Trojans back this year is Kelly Fitzgerald, who placed eighth at the 3A state swim championships in the 100-yard breaststroke. And while no longer a club swimmer, Henderson said Fitzgerald is getting back into competitive shape just fine.

“This is a different year for her,” Henderson said. “She’s really stepped up leadership wise. She’s kind of working into shape, getting back into it. She’s always fun to watch.”

But she’s not the only one to watch in the water this season.

“Kelsey (Strickland)’s getting back down there,” Henderson said. “Kristie (Brace)’s getting there. And Lisa Patrick has a lot of opportunities. She’s good at a number of things.”

Tanzy Caulkins also returns for Oly.

But after Oly graduated key contributors like Heather Nelson and Natalie Kelner, Henderson said it’s been an interesting process to see who would fill those gaps.

“I wasn’t sure where we’d stand,” he said. “I kind of wondered who’d step up this year. It’s been kind of fun to see.”

As a result, Henderson said everyone has been rising to the occasion, even that means personal improvement instead of state-qualifying times, especially from swimmers like Rachelle Burnett and Ellie Bright.

“(Rachelle)’s working up, working in a harder lane,” Henderson said. “(Ellie) probably won’t go to districts, but she’s working hard and dropping times. She’s stepping it up a little bit.”

It’s swimmers like those that Henderson said make the biggest waves in the coach’s mind.

“They’re always working so hard,” he said. “They don’t always get the credit, but a lot of times, they’re the ones I notice the most.”

With the season moving along quickly, Henderson said the team is coming along as planned.

“We’re where I want to be,” he said. “We just need to maintain that focus. Just take each practice for what it’s worth. And put the effort into it.”

In a tough Olympic League that includes the likes of perennial contenders Peninsula and Port Angeles, Henderson said he sees Oly somewhere in the middle.

“I feel like we’re in the middle of the pack,” he said. “Port Angeles and Peninsula especially, they’re up there. We’re right in the middle of things, right in the thick of it. It’s a good place to be.”

Olympic and Klahowya square off in the pool at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at the Olympic Aquatic Center.

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