Making a splash: Swim hits fast lane
Marion High’s swim team has one of the state’s smallest rosters, but the Warriors still have big goals this season and hope for the team’s future.
The team has seen surprising first-year success with key swimmers who are likely to return next year.
Junior Amy Gayle and freshman Caitlin Thornhill are both on the verge of qualifying for state, coach Randy Carlson said.
Freshman Leah Brunner, sophomore Brooklyn Smith, and juniors Emily Hake and Hannah May have bested their times as they gained experience. They, too, could return next year.
The team’s drive has placed the Warriors “in middle of the competitive pack” in a league dominated by swimming powerhouses like Andover, Wichita College and state champion Bishop Carroll.
“That shows we are capable of beating some of these bigger teams with just six — and that is just amazing to me,” Carlson said.
But team of just six in its debut season needs to put in work if they want to hold their own, Carlson said.
The girls put in at least two hours of practice five days a week. They swim 4,000 to 5,000 yards each session.
Most mornings, Carlson types up a workout plan, prints off six copies, and tucks them into waterproof plastic bags for each swimmer.
The girls pick up their instructions by the pool and get down to business, swimming laps or working on specialized strokes.
Swimmers new to the sport are often stunned by how much hard work it takes.
“It is so repetitive,” he said. “You do the same things over and over and it takes a lot of discipline. You either love being in the water or you don’t.”
Carlson often has the girls race each other to break up the monotony and spark competitive spirits.
“Some days I just want to see who is the fastest,” he said. “We find out who is the queen of the pool for the week.”
Each swimmer has brought something special to the team, he said.
Gale has driven the Warriors this year and puts in hard work during the off season.
“She is a big reason the team got started this year,” he said. “Her passion for swimming and her dedication have shown.”
Carlson says Smith is a talented competitor with a good work ethic and ability to take direction.
“If I tell her to change something, she changes it right away,” he said.
Hake is a determined soul who keeps pushing through difficulty.
Thornhill, Brunner and May all have shown steady improvement.
Brunner, from Centre High, had to adjust to his coaching style but caught on quickly.
“Watching her improve has been absolutely amazing,” he said.
Carlson expects “nothing but continued growth” from Thornhill.
May is this year’s surprise, growing into a good swimmer after years of struggle, he said.
“I am so proud of her for finding a way to improve,” he said. “She wants to get better and its showing.”
Carlson has been honored to watch all six grow individually and as a unit.
“Last Thursday I stopped practice and told them ‘I am so proud of you. You are making my job so much easier,’ ” he said. “This is what a real swim team looks like.”
The Warriors’ next meet is set for 3:30 p.m. May 4 in Hutchinson.
Invitational swim team results for April 23.
Marion High Swim team, 4th.
200-yard medley relay, 4th, Amy Gayle, Caitlin Thornhill, Emily Hake and Hannah May.
200-yard freestyle, 3rd, Amy Gayle.
50-yard freestyle, 2nd, Caitlin Thornhill.
100-yard freestyle, 6th, Leah Brunner.
500-yard freestyle, 3rd, Hannah May.
200-yard-freestyle relay, 4th, Amy Gayle, Leah Brunner, Brooklyn Smith and Caitlin Thornhill.
100-yard backstroke, 3rd, Amy Gayle
100-yard breaststroke, 5th, Caitlin Thornhill, 6th, Leah Brunner.
Last modified April 28, 2021