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Giants swimmers embrace family bond

By CHUCK LANDIS - clandis@chronicle-tribune.com

Marion High swimmers view themselves as a small, tight-nit family, and that only begins with their new head coaches.

Kyle and Liz Strohman are guiding the boys’ and girls’ teams and they are the second husband-wife coaching tandem in Grant County. Adam and Jamie Hallis coached the Eastbrook boys’ and girls’ soccer teams in the fall.

The Giants have 16 total swimmers, and predictably, the small numbers hurt in their dual meet Thursday against visiting Norwell. While the Knights out-pointed the Giants by a combined 251.5-80.5, the Strohmans were excited about some promising individual performances.

“A lot of what saw was how close this team was,” Kyle Strohman said. “Yes, we had some unbelievably incredible performances and swimming is pretty much an individual sport. But the camaraderie on this team between the boys and the girls we can build that up, and having coaches who care about your being and your personal best is a recipe for building up a team.

“We’ve got the talent, but what we need is to have more numbers come out,” he added. “There are individuals who haven’t found their spot in high school yet or are involved something else. I challenge them to come to the pool and see what they can do.”

Kyle Strohman, who also is the Grant County YMCA executive director, and Liz have coached YMCA swim teams in the past and were competitive swimmers at Maine East High, Des Plaines, Illinois. Liz said she enjoys the family aspect in dealing with the swimmers especially since she also has young children at home.

“We definitely came as a package deal,” Liz said. “We’re dealing with kids at home and family life but this team, we walked into it and people said these kids are like a family and that is what they are.

“There is a solid core group of them who have been there awhile and new ones who walked in and new coaches and they have accepted us to the family,” she added. “It’s just a great group of kids.”

Marion had three individual winners against Norwell - senior Tyler Morgan and freshman Jonathan Reynolds for the boys and freshman Stevie McAtee for the girls, and she was a double winner. Morgan set a personal best of 56.17 seconds in the 100-yard freestyle in his first meet and has some big goals for the season.

“It felt great start to the year with a PR,” Morgan said. “This is my senior year and I’ve swam since sixth grade. This year in my final year I want to swim 52 (seconds) in the 100 free and I’d like to break 22 in the 50 free.”

Reynolds and McAtee both have swam competitively in club meets from a young age, mainly for the YMCA, before making their high school debuts. McAtee said she was thrust into unfamiliar events Thursday and came away with firsts in the 200 individual medley in 2:44.79 and 100 butterfly in 1:18.88.

“I was surprised because I don’t usually swim those events,” McAtee said. “I was happy it turned out that way. One of the girls who was supposed to swim was sick and they threw me in there last-second. I do all the strokes, but I was nervous. The 100 fly is the most challenging for me.”

Reynolds won the boys’ 200 IM in 2:26.84 and like his older teammate Morgan has come clear goals for the season and beyond.

“I’m like Tyler and I want to get to 22 seconds on the 50 free by the end of the year as a freshman because that would be cool,” Reynolds said. “I want to go for state and nationals someday, which is what I’m really hoping for.”

Marion girls had seconds from Morgan Hartman in the 50 freestyle and Gabby Vermilion in 1-meter diving; Bayley Grieve was third in the 200 freestyle and 100 breaststroke, and Savannah Fry took third in the 100 backstroke.

“These girls go in knowing they are at a disadvantage in numbers,” Liz Strohman said. “But what I’m proud of with these girls is it didn’t stop them from trying their hardest and still put 100 percent effort in this meet, which is great to see as a coach.

“There are a couple girls who are starting out where they left off last year and starting to show signs of competing further,” she added. “Bayley Grieve did great in the 100 breast we pushed her as hard as we could. Savannah Fry has surprised us the last two meets in the backstroke and has done a great job.”

The boys had seconds from Henrique Samorini in the 50 freestyle, Zach Stephens in the 100 butterfly and Kyle Hummel in 1-meter diving. Joseph Powell had a pair of thirds in the 200 freestyle and 100 breaststroke. Morgan also contributed a second in the 100 backstroke and Reynolds had a third in the 500 freestyle.

Morgan has dealt with the small numbers all four years he’s been on the boys’ team, but for the most part has accepted the situation.

“It’s frustrating to know there are a lot of people at this school who cold be great at this sport but don’t do it,” Morgan said. “But we do have a lot of great people on this team who do love it and enjoy it and I’m really proud of them for coming out and doing good.”

Marion competes Saturday in an invitational meet at Noblesville.