Although the Antioch team is smaller than its league rivals, it has nearly doubled in size since swim coach Keri Miles’ first year with the program. The squad practices and swims at the upscale facilities of Los Medanos College in Pittsburg, but LMC’s distance from the Antioch campus effectively shortens the swim team’s practice time. Miles’ goal is to grow the program to where the school will renovate the on-campus facility.
“It’s a little hard in that we have to get ourselves over here, whether by carpool or the kids driving themselves. It’s in Pittsburg, not Antioch,” Miles said. “It’s a disadvantage all-around. But this is better than it’s been the last four years.”
The Panthers have the pieces in place to build the team beyond 2011. Freshman Eric Nooteboom is on a competitive swimming team for the first time in his life yet swims his best race, the 50-yard freestyle, in 25.12 seconds. Junior Tanner Fuhrmann has been swimming with Miles all three years. He has dropped five seconds in the 100-yard freestyle since last season.
For the girls, Miles identifies sophomore Shannon McMillan, who specializes in the breaststroke, as a standout performer. While her specialty is the breaststroke, McMillan is improving in the freestyle and excels when racing against strong swimmers.
Between the boys and girls, Antioch will lose only girls swimmers Evan Kovalick and Emily Marzolf to graduation. Both have been a part of the Panthers swim team for two of their three previous years, and both see improvements from when they were underclassmen.
“I think we’re doing well,” Marzolf said. “Automatically, we have the disadvantage at numbers. But we are a really strong team.”
The Panthers’ shorthandedness makes winning meets nearly impossible. Even when they field the fastest swimmer in a given meet, their opponent will make up those points in the subsequent positions.
That the program appears headed in the right direction provides little benefit to Kovalick or Marzolf. Despite that, both seniors are satisfied with the state of the current program and look forward to the program gaining strength.
“I think it got more organized,” said Kovalick. “Practices got more challenging. Now we win some races. Our relays keep up. I hope the team continues to grow so I can look back in the future and say that I was on that team when they were really little – and now they’re big and strong.”