LaGrange has participated in two meets this season, and it has finished fifth in one and second in another, and it will look to add another high finish on Saturday during a meet at the Mike Daniel Recreation Center.
LaGrange is also looking to earn more state qualifiers, with four girls having already posted times fast enough to earn a state invitation.
The team is under the direction of Kat Russell, who is in her second season as the LaGrange swim coach.
“Everything’s been really good,” Russell said on Wednesday while watching her swimmers participate in some dry-land exercises at Granger Park. “We have an attendance policy this year, and that’s really helped. I was trying to get my feet wet (last season) with how these kids would react to me. Now I’ve laid down the law. The kids know me now. Everything’s good.”
Russell said not everyone who tried out for the team made it.
She wanted to make sure everyone on the team had the makings of a competitive swimmer.
“At the beginning of the season, I try to see who gets in the pool and shows up,” Russell said. “I kind of tell them, they have one week, and at the end of the week I let them know if they’re on the team or not. I don’t have time to focus on one when I’ve got 40 others.
“We swim close to 100 laps or more every practice. If they struggled on one lap, how are they going to do 100?”
There are 38 swimmers on the team, and while the numbers were slightly higher last season, team member Maddie Paschal said the quality is as high as she’s seen it during her time at LaGrange.
“This is the best our team has ever been,” said Paschal, who’ll compete in four events at state. “We have more quality than we’ve ever had. Our freshmen are very good this year.”
Another one of the seniors, John Skinner, said having Russell as coach has been great for the program.
“She has a good swimming background,” Skinner said. “We’ve definitely improved since she came.”
Paschal leads the way among the state qualifiers.
Paschal, who late last year signed a letter of intent to swim at Georgia Tech, has met the state qualifying times in numerous events, but she’ll be limited to two individual events and two relays.
Paschal said she’ll swim in the 100-yard backstroke and the 50-yard freestyle, and she’ll also be a part of the 200-yard freestyle and 200-yard medley relay teams.
Christine Yin will also compete in two individual events and two relays, and Emily Tomlinson and Jenna Conrad have qualified in two relay events.
On the boys’ side, none of the Grangers have met the state qualifying time, but a number of them are close.
“We’re hoping to get a boys’ relay,” Russell said. “They’re a second and a half away from state. They’re really close. So we’re going to work on that.”
On the individual front, Skinner is one of the Grangers on the doorstep of qualifying for state.
He needs to chop off a half-second on one of his events to make state.
“I hope it happens,” Skinner said. “In your senior year, that’d be a cool thing to have under your belt.”
LaGrange has three competitions coming up leading up to the state swim meet on Feb 8-9, giving the non-state-qualifiers a chance to make that happen.