JACKSON TWP. While their numbers may not be as large as they were in the past, the Jackson Polar Bears are looking to continue their winning ways this season.
The overall roster size is slightly smaller than it has been in most recent seasons, which means veterans such as senior Nick Dye are focused on doing as much as they can to keep the program rolling as the underclassmen on the roster work to acclimate to the varsity level.
"We’ve started off strong and we have a lot of young talent on team even though not as big as it was in past, so there’s not as much depth," Dye said.
He pointed to senior Sean Ream, one of the team’s captains, as one of the athletes who have helped propel the team to strong performances at the McKinley Relays and their early dual meets. Along with Dye and Ream, juniors Ted Kinney and Jason Tondra are two of the veterans who have been in plenty of big races during their careers.
The team as a whole has made the transition to a new head coach this year, although Megan Burrows isn’t truly new to the team. She was an assistant coach the last three seasons under former head coach Matt Ziders and according to Dye, the transition from an athlete’s point of view has been smooth.
"Everything been run the same, but it’s just different face as head coach," Dye said. "The workout schedule has stayed pretty much the same."
Something else that has remained the same is the expectation that the team will contend for a league title, which Dye and his teammates hope to accomplish with consistently high efforts every time they take to the water.
"One of our main goals as a team is to have positive attitude and give our best effort every race," Dye said. "We want to give 100 percent every single lap and even if it’s not your best race, keep your head up and keep going forward."
Dye said one of the biggest assets of Burrows’ approach that he likes is the consistency she’s brought to the program. By keeping change to a minimum, the comfort level has remained high and the results have shown through in the pool. A third-place finish at the McKinley Relays was followed by wins over Perry, Dover and Boardman, giving Jackson a 1-0 league start as it pursues the league title, which has consistently remained clad in purple and gold in recent seasons.
As the year nears its midpoint and the swimmers and divers keep a look out for their postseason ambitions, multiple invitationals and dual meets remain on the schedule. A showdown with Hoover on senior day will cap the regular season and according to Dye, both he and the team as a whole have a list of postseason goals.
"As a team goal, we want to get as many people to states as possible and set a lot of records this year," Dye said. "For me, I want to get to the state meet in the 100 breaststroke and break Franklin Shew’s record from last year."
Dye also competes on the 200 medley relay team and believes that both that relay and the team’s other relay squads have the potential to make a splash when the sectional and district meets roll around in February.
Because there aren’t as many swimmers on the roster, reaching those goals may mean that swimmers across the roster will have to carry a slightly bigger load, but with a mixture of veterans and newcomers who would love to add their own successful chapter to the program’s legacy, there’s no option but to keep their heads up and keep working to move forward.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB