Two Derby swimmers are intertwined this season, as their focus is the same – breakthrough at the 6A state meet.
But Bryce Hill and Jackson Sandstrom have two divergent paths on what needs to be done to make it so.
For Hill, the state meet has been marred with close-but-not-quites. His 100-yard breaststroke time at state was not his best, and it put him in 17th – keeping him one spot short of surviving the preliminaries. In the 200 IM, he was 22nd.
Head coach Jimmy Adams had Hill hop in the pool quickly this summer, and is also training him on dry land to see if it gives Hill the edge he needs.
“He started swimming a lot sooner this year,” Adams said. “He’s been taking over a leadership role, too. I hope that will propel him into performing just for the team.”
Sandstrom's state performances were solid for a sophomore. He finished 17thin both the 50 and 100 free. Both events came down to going up against upperclassmen who were just stronger and faster.
Muscle, not mileage, became the offseason regimen.
“He lifted a lot during the offseason. He swam quite a bit. He’s actually stepped into a leadership role. He’s a football player trapped in a swimmer’s body,” Adams said. “He’s not intimidated by the pressure. He pretty much eats it up.”
Hill and Sandstrom will team with Carl Mayou to make three-fourths of Derby's state-qualifying relay team. However, the Panthers have to find a replacement for Erik Russell, one of the most accomplished swimmers in school history.
There are options. Dalton Kendall, Liam Ormiston and Collin Gosvener have the early lead in the race for the spot. All three gained state experience in the 200 free relay a year ago. Justin Kim and Kole Nottingham add depth.
And perhaps that is the biggest key of all. Adams has 25 boys out for the team this year, his largest class as a coach. Those numbers are vital as Derby tries to improve on two postseason numbers.
The first is the gap behind Maize in the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division I meet. The Eagles cruised to a league title not just because of elite swimmers at the top, but quality in their second and third competitors. The latter has been a constant struggle for Derby.
“We’re going to have to figure out who is going to swim certain events. We’ll have to see what the new and younger guys can step in to,” Adams said.
The Panthers also want to continue to improve the state team score. Derby was 13ththis past season. In the years prior, the Panthers were 15th and 17th, respectively.
“When I came in, we had a talented group of freshmen boys that came in. They’re juniors now,” Adams said. “Everyone just kind of keeps stepping up. This year, I’ve told the boys I would like to get in the top 10.”