The Clipboard ┃Rebecca Reed

Will the Chargers’ mix of veteran speed and underclassmen potential propel them to the postseason?

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The Northwood swimming team has been on a roll as of late, with the women’s squad posting an unbeaten 4-0 record through two meets and the men not falling far behind at 3-1. With just two meets left before the Central 3A conference meet in about a month, the Chargers are aiming to put themselves in a position to qualify for regionals in early February.

This week, the News + Record spoke to first-year Chargers Head Coach Rebecca Reed to discuss her team’s one-loss season up to this point, the swimmers that’ll make the most noise in the postseason and the differences in coaching college and high school. Conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

What are some of the differences you’ve noticed with coaching at a Division I college level (like at James Madison University) versus the high school level?

REBECCA REED: I think that one of the differences is the commitment level when you’re working with college athletes. One thing that’s important to note with high school swimming — and I don’t know how many other sports are like this — is the kids who are swimming club are training, mostly, with their club team. They don’t stop training with their club team to come train with their high school team during the short high school season. So the athletes that I’m working with on a weekly basis are not really year-round swimmers. They’re the ones who are interested in the sport and interested in competing and getting better, but are not swimming year-round. And so the opportunity there, with those athletes, is that there are lot of opportunities for growth. I also find their enthusiasm is higher because this is their chance to swim. They enjoy the sport and they want to get better and this is their season to do that. We have some girls that are at the junior national level, really fast year-round swimmers, and then we have people who just really love being in the water and really love the sport and they love racing and they’re not at the junior national level but their enthusiasm is no different. You see a lot of improvement happen with those athletes, which is really rewarding.

Who are some of your swimmers that (a) you expect to see improvement out of from the first meet to the last meet or (b) your top swimmers that you enjoy watching every time they hit the water?

I’m going to categorize them into two groups. You’ve got some really incredible year-round swimmers competing for us, all women, we don’t have any year-round swimmers on the men’s side. We have some really great women swimmers that are just really fast and just add a lot of speed to the team. Julia Earnshaw, Gwen Hoeg and Mia Corrado, the three of them are just really fun to watch swim. They’re all seniors, as well, so I feel really lucky that I was able to join the program and have a year to watch them compete and watch them perform. They’re bringing a lot of fast swimming to the team. We also have a two really great freshmen, which it’s really exciting for me, Abby Emirates and Holly Thesing, so we have these seniors where this is their last year competing for Northwood and for their club teams before going to college and then these other two girls who are just getting started, but are also incredibly fast, and it’s exciting to see how they’re going to progress over the years. From a women’s perspective, those five are real standouts, for sure. We also have a group of kids who are coming to my practice and who I’m coaching and who I’m seeing a lot of improvement from, Anna Beck and Savannah Matthews, are two names that immediately come to mind as girls who have really impressed me between their attitude and willingness to get better and the improvement they made from week one to week two has been really fun to watch.

And then on the men’s side, we don’t have any year-round swimmers, but Morgan Turner is a sophomore on the team and is a real leader at practice every day. He works really hard, he shows up for events like the 500 freestyle and the 100 fly that not a lot of people are really raising their hands to do. We also have a senior named Mason Bae. He is a breaststroker and a freestyler for us and has just a really positive attitude and has also seen a lot of improvement from from meet one to meet two. And he’s just a regular strong presence in the water. It’s fun because, with the men’s team, we have a pretty large group of them who are athletes in other sports in the fall and in the spring, so they showed up like, “Oh, we really want to do a sport to stay in shape,” and I think they underestimated being on the swim team and just how hard it was going to be because you can be an extremely athletic runner, baseball player, football player, lacrosse player, really physically fit in the weight room or on a track and then you get in a pool and it’s just completely different. The muscles you’re using, the movements that you’re doing, it’s completely different. And I think it can be very humbling, but it’s just really awesome to see that group of boys show up to practice. None of them bring their egos, they leave them on the deck and just get in and work hard and they’re making a lot of improvements. It’s been really, really fun to watch.

What would you say are your expectations for this season and the final couple of regular season meets of the year?

For the men’s side, we haven’t had a lot of them make it past the conference level and into regionals over the program’s history. We have several boys, individual events and relays, that have made consideration qualifying times for the regional meets. No one has quite gotten to an automatic bid, but I think we have a couple guys — I mentioned Morgan and Mason, but there’s also a junior named Lex Mansour — who have a really excellent opportunity of qualifying for regionals. I’d really love to see Northward represented at the regional meet this year, that’s a that’s a goal of mine for for the men.

As far as the girls are concerned, I think that we have an opportunity to compete with the best in the state in some of our individual events. Definitely some of our relays. We had one of our relays get fourth at states last year and I know that the three girls that came back — one of the girls that swam in that relay was a senior — they’re super proud of that and I think it would be a really awesome send-off, especially for the three girls who were juniors last year, who are now seniors — Julia, Gwen and Mia — to beat that place and have a third-place or a second-place or first-place finish at states to close out their career at Northwood. Then also to see some of those girls in the in the championship heats for some of the individual events. And from the the girls who are not swimming year-round, it’s kind of the same deal as the boys, because we have a handful of girls who have made consideration qualifying times for regionals, not automatic quite yet, but I’d love to see a couple of them qualify and compete with the team at at regionals. I think that’s the goal.

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