Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

If You're Coach, You Can Say That Again as in Past, O'brien Has `Most Talented' Team

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

If You're Coach, You Can Say That Again as in Past, O'brien Has `Most Talented' Team

Article excerpt

Fort Zumwalt South swimming coach Mike O'Brien hates to repeat himself. But . . . .

"I know I say this every year, but this is the most talented team we've ever had," the coach said. "Just a few years ago, we'd have kids who really didn't even know how to swim. But that's not the case anymore. More and more of these kids are swimming competitively before they reach high school and that makes a big difference."

And the future of swimming in St. Charles County looks even brighter, thanks to the new Rec-Plex, which is scheduled to open next year.

"The Rec-Plex is a pretty common topic of conversation for us," said O'Brien, whose team splits practice time at the St. Charles County YMCA and the St. Charles Boys and Girls Club. "The Rec-Plex isn't going to turn us into a state contender by next year, but it's going to help make swimming a more high-profile sport. With better youth feeder programs, we'll obviously get better, more experienced swimmers at the high school level.

"At this point, we're all pretty excited about the Rec-Plex."

And O'Brien is excited about this year's squad at South. The Bulldogs, who finished 11-7 a year ago, are 1-1 so far. They lost 94-86 to Suburban North Conference power Hazelwood East and beat Eureka 100-75.

"As far as I'm concerned, Hazelwood East is the team to beat in conference," said O'Brien, whose squad competes in the Suburban North in swimming. "But we've already had some good results. The guys are working hard and I'm confident we'll get better as the season goes on."

The Bulldogs will be led by junior Dan Schlueter, a state qualifer last year. Schlueter is a freestyler, capable of swimming sprints as well as distance events.

Other top returning veteran swimmers include co-captains Dennis Ketcherside and Ben Harmon. Ketcherside, a versatile sort, is capable of swimming any stroke; Harmon is a backstroker.

Junior Aaron Tuck (freestyle/butterfly) joins sophomores Billy Palmer (freestyle sprints), Casey Gertken (freestyle distance) and Nick Mantia (breaststroke/individual medley) as the team's other top returnees. Sophomore butterflyer Nick Roganish is probably the squad's most improved swimmer.

A gifted freshman class is headed by Steve Mansker, who has already posted state-qualifying times in the backstroke and butterfly. …

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