Last fall the Rosemount Irish girls' swimming and diving team took fourth at the state tournament on the strength of having 10 entries compete in the finals. However, many of the top-end swimmers on that 2017 team graduated last spring, including Cassandra Hutchins, Macy Klein, Andrea Holtz and Julia Simms. Returning from those state entrants are senior Anna Wenman, junior Molly Urkiel and senior Taylor Barabash, along experienced younger swimmers like sophomore Balor O'Donnel, junior Nicholle Miller, sophomore Kathleen Bartz and junior Grace Urkiel. However, for the most part this year's team is very different and while it may be a much younger Irish squad, head coach Jake Kemna said they should be fun to watch.
"We lost a lot of top-end talent last year, so we're trying to fill a lot of those holes and a lot of these younger girls are stepping up," he said. "We're a totally different team this year, we're looking at a young team, a developing team. We're not the top-end team that we were last year."
Kemna did say that the rebuilding process is exciting in its own way though.
"But it's great, they're working hard and they're really trying to step in and build it back up," he said about the program. "We know it might not be this year but it could be down the road."
Rosemount has had four meets so far this season, including a tight meet with Farmington at Dodge Middle School. Talking after the meet, Kemna said the team's strengths so far this season have been their intangibles.
"Definitely our unity and getting fired up when it comes down to it," he said. "The team is just there for each other, that was right off the bat and I was really excited to see that. Stepping up when it's needed."
Kemna went on to say that now that they are in what he calls the "heart or the meat" of their schedule, they will transition to working on the details needed for the end of the season.
"It's just the little stuff," he said. "We spend the first two weeks kind of just getting back in the water and getting in shape. Once schools starts up and we get into this meet season, we really focus on racing, on competing. We focus on the little things, that's when we really shift gears and we really start to focus. Our program, we train for the end of the season, our only focus is those last three meets of the year."
Those swimmers mentioned at the start of this article came up big for the Irish in their latest meet at Farmington and Kemna praised them and others for helping to replace those lost to graduation. Wenman won the 200 IM and 100 butterfly, Grace Urkiel won the 500 freestyle and Molly Urkiel took the 100 breaststroke. Also taking first were the 200 medley relay team (Wenman, Molly Urkiel, O'Donnel and Miller) and the 400 freestyle relay (Grace Urkiel, O'Donnel, Barabash and Bartz).
The Irish are at Eagan tonight (Thursday, Sept. 13) and then host Apple Valley next Thursday, Sept. 20.