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Hazen boys swim & dive | Season preview
In order to take the next step, it’s all about the relays for the Hazen swim and dive team.
“The formula to show well as a program is through development of pride and performance in relays,” said Hazen swim and dive coach Rick Wertman. “The big points are in relays. We want to have all the kids come around and want to win a spot on relays. That competition is the engine that drives the whole thing.”
As a team, the Highlanders finished third at districts and 27th at state last season.
Hazen’s 200-medley relay placed 23rd at state last year. The group returns seniors Blake Baxter and Andrew Le, but Wertman said incoming freshman Nolan Hoover should have a big impact as a backstroker.
The Highlanders’ 200-free relay finished 20th at state and returns all four swimmers with juniors Kyle Nelson, P.J. Warmenhoven and Chase Onstot, plus senior Alex Gayte.
Hazen took 17th in the 400-free relay at state, with Onstot, Warmenhoven and sophomore Malcom Mitchell all returning.
Nelson, Warmenhoven, Gayte, Mitchell, Baxter, Deven Crich, Chase Contrill, Ryder Ronk and Chris Foth also made districts in individual events.
Wertman’s biggest challenge early in the season is logistics. As a new coach, it’s difficult to build a working relationship with 58 swimmers in a short period of time. However, having such a big team is a problem Wertman gladly takes on to have the depth needed for an elite program.
“The broader the base, the higher the peak,” he said. “The challenge is to find those diamonds in the rough who will complement the club swimmers.”
Wertman plans to mix and match with his relays liberally through the dual-meet season then work specifically on relay skills in the final weeks of the season.
“You put your work in in the dual meets, in terms of learning how to compete, they’re quizzes along the way,” he said. “When you get to the championships, that’s where you build the reputation of your program.”
Wertman said the boys team has a similar talent level to the Hazen girls team that just finished eighth at the state meet.
“We’re young but there’s a lot of promise with this group,” he said. “We’re setting some aggressive goals.”