A young LaGrange High swim team is retooled and ready to dive in the deep-end

Published 8:30 am Wednesday, December 20, 2023

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The LaGrange High swim team is back. Last season was essentially a wash as the pool at the Mike Daniel Center was out of service which left the team scrambling. It was a tough season in which very little went right.

“With the pool shut down last season we had one swim meet,” Brennan Wilkes said with a laugh. “I have two returning from last year, but one is injured, so everybody is new. It was a very difficult year for us. It was the weirdest swim season I’ve ever been a part of.”

Wilkes, now technically in his second year as head coach, says that this feels like his first season in charge.

The team is mostly made up of newcomers to the sport, but the team does have a freshman phenom in Kalynne Pressler, who transferred in from Indiana in the summer.

“She is our best swimmer and she is a real stud,” Wilkes said. “I’m excited that I get to coach her for all four years. She has been swimming since she was six years old. She is only a second or so off from the state cut time on her 100m backstroke.”

Wilkes was also able to recruit two supreme athletes to come out in the form of junior softball duo Harlee Overton and Hudson Wood. The two arrived late as they had prior commitments to the Granger softball team but have quickly adjusted to life in the water in their first year on the team.

Overton and Wood are just two of the swimmers that he expects to take a big leap over the course of this season and heading into the next one.

“The softball girls came in a little late, but they came in and picked it up right away,” Wilkes said. “Harlee and Hudson have been crushing it. I think in another year Harlee could be a state qualifier.”

Overton had a quality showing last time out at Harris County, finishing 8th in 200m freestyle and 14th in 50m freestyle.

First-year swimmers are a theme for this year’s squad. That first competition of the season was a real learning experience for the team.

“I tell kids all the time that swimming in your pool during the summer is way different than competition,” Wilkes said. “There was a lot of nerves for that first meet, but once they got in the water they settled down.”

The team is co-ed but the 2023-24 team is almost entirely comprised of girls with just one male swimmer on the team — Bruce Martinez.

The plan is to keep expanding both the girl’s and boy’s sides of the team, and it starts with the team Wilkes has now. He believes if they can get the word out and the successful season continues, the program will continue to grow in the years to come.

“I don’t want to look too far ahead, but I’m really excited to see what we can do next year,” Wilkes said. “We have a lot of potential and all the newbies should be coming back, so we can just build on what we have been teaching them this year.”

T’Maya Davis is battling through an injury currently, but Wilkes hopes to get her back to 100% either before the end of this season or heading into her senior year with the Grangers.

Karen Barrientos and Emilyn Scott have been two great additions to the team as well, especially Scott, who finished eighth in 50m freestyle and 15th in 100m freestyle at the Harris County invitational last week. Barrientos was a part of the team last season but only swam in one meet, so this feels like a real first season for her.

“This team is super coachable which makes it easy on me,” Wilkes said. “They come out here ready to work.”