NORTH CANTON The Hoover Vikings doubled up on their fun this season and because of it, all of the Federal League’s swimming and diving hardware resides in North Canton.
After battling arch rival Jackson for the past several seasons and seeing its girls team break through with a league title last season, Hoover captured both the boys and girls titles this winter, capping the feat with resounding wins over Jackson to punctuate a record-breaking regular season.
"They wanted to win that meet and the swam great times in it," head coach Rick Morrison said. "It was a good focus for us at the end of the dual meet season and we swam well and still want to keep swimming well."
Morrison noted that the Vikings were excited to win the league and even more excited to do it together. After the girls won the title last season, the boys were eager to get their own title and doing it together made the day even more special.
Both teams entered the year with plenty of experience in the form of returning state qualifiers and a lot of young talent looking to make its mark and that combination youth and experience paid off with undefeated league seasons, invitational wins and a lot of momentum entering the postseason.
"We’ve had underclassmen come up and score points we needed and our regular leaders in our juniors and seniors stand up tall and score the points that they needed," Morrison said.
From the first day of practice, Morrison explained, the Vikings have trained with a focus on the postseason and on sending as many competitors as possible to the state meet. Although the meet takes place in Canton and is a short trip from Hoover High School, the journey to get there is a long, winding one.
Some of the well-known names on the roster, including Nate Mullens, Will Schneider, Regan Maxwell, Parker Timken and Amanda Palutsis, have delivered big performances, but new faces have emerged as well. That depth played a big role in the girls team’s 120-66 win over Jackson, as well as the boys team’s 102-83 triumph over the Polar Bears.
Depth is less of a factor in the postseason, when teams are limited in how many competitors they can enter in each event, but it bodes well for the future as the Vikings look to sustain the momentum they’ve built over the past few seasons.
"They all know work they’ve put in these past several months and know the times they’re swimming in practice," Morrison said. "We spend a lot of time looking at the clock in practice, training for the end of the season. They believe they can do well at the state meet and I don’t think they’re daydreaming. They’re looking to have a great postseason."
Regardless of the outcome of the postseason, Hoover already has plenty of accomplishments on its season resume. While some of the Vikings’ stars will be swimming on the collegiate level next season, there are many younger standouts whose successful campaigns could serve as a foundation for similar success next year.
Sweeping the Federal League titles for a second season in a row will likely be even more difficult than winning both this year, but at this point, the feat is the logical next step for these Vikings.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB