Cavs tackle challenges in the pool

Published 9:28 pm Thursday, January 14, 2016

Lakeland High School sophomore Ryan Wright is one of the returning swimmers that has been important to helping the school's swim program develop this season. (Melissa Glover photo)

Lakeland High School sophomore Ryan Wright is one of the returning swimmers that has been important to helping the school’s swim program develop this season. (Melissa Glover photo)

A low number of swimmers is an issue for the Lakeland High School swimming program, but it is pressing on, taking a simple approach to each competitive opportunity it has in the 2015-16 season.

“All we look for every meet is just improvement,” said new Lakeland coach Christopher Novakoski.

Entering Saturday’s meet, the Cavaliers have a record of 1-5, while the Lady Cavaliers have a record of 0-6.

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“We’re really shorthanded on girls,” Novakoski said, noting it is similar to cross country, which he also coaches at Lakeland. “We’re having a hard time getting girls out for sports.”

There are 22 total swimmers in Lakeland’s varsity program, 10 of which are girls. There had been 12, but two decided not to return during the season. Meanwhile, sickness has ravaged the teams, as well.

The challenges have helped keep the Lady Cavaliers out of the win column, but the Cavs have tasted victory and been quite competitive.

“The guys beat Deep Creek (High School) last week,” Novakoski said, noting they also previously came close to beating Indian River High School and Oscar Smith High School.

The 2014-15 season for Lakeland’s swim program was similar to this year in terms of team record, but both the boys’ and girls’ teams made it to regionals where they each placed 12th.

Though no Lakeland swimmers qualified for competition in the 2015 state championships, the program had some standouts. Some of them have graduated, like Erin Bradshaw, Megan Cox and Kenyon Strickland, but some still remain.

Novakoski said the returners are helping the many young, new swimmers develop, even as they push themselves to faster and faster times.

The coach noted that Lakeland has several chances to be represented at states this season.

“Jenna Christmas and Cheyenne Salmon have a chance to maybe sneak into states, I think,” Novakoski said.

Christmas, a senior, is strong in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle, while Salmon, also a senior, shines in the 100-meter butterfly.

“With the guys, our (400-meter) medley relay team or our (400-meter freestyle) relay team have a chance,” Novakoski said.

The 400 medley relay team features junior Hart Parker, sophomore Ryan Wright, freshman Michael “Cole” Matren and senior Cody Lawrence. The 400 free relay team includes Matren, Lawrence and freshmen Corey Hasson and Noah Colyer.

Individually, Lawrence has a chance to make it to states in the 50 and 100 freestyle, Novakoski said, while Hasson could make the cut in the 100 and 200 free.

Matren is a swimmer to watch, joining the team with a lot of experience gleaned from being part of a Coast Guard developmental swim team.

Novakoski said Matren “can do pretty much anything. Any event, he has a chance in (it) — he’s that good.”

As far as what Lakeland is up against in Conference 27, Novakoski sees the situation as similar to the one he faces in his other coaching duties at the school.

“Just like in cross country, Tabb (High School) and York (High School) are going to be very tough,” he said, but he does not expect the Cavaliers to be among the lowest ranking teams. “I don’t see why the guys can’t be second at conference.”

And though he added that losing two girls during the season hurt, Novakoski hopes the Lady Cavaliers can grab third in the conference championships.

Lakeland’s swim teams face King’s Fork High School on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Great Bridge Swim and Racquet Club in Chesapeake.