GLADSTONE - There are some new kids on the block this year as Gladstone prepares for its first high school swimming season.
The Braves, represented by nine girls and three boys, open Thursday at 5 p.m. in a quadrangular meet with Manistique, Hancock and Kingsford at the Northern Lights YMCA in Iron Mountain.
"That's really not a bad turnout for our first year," said Braves' mentor Tom Desy, also head coach for the Delta Dolphins (YMCA team) for the past six seasons. "We'll be operating as a club team for the first few years. If our numbers become stable, we'll look into becoming a full-fledged high school team."
The girls are led by senior captains Nicolle Trudeau and Brooke Douglas. Both have participated in the YMCA program since age 9 and are entered in backstroke and freestyle events in the high school meets, with Trudeau also doing breaststroke.
Also, senior Ashley Berthaume returns to competitive swimming following a 4-5 year absence.
"Nicolle and Brooke know the routines," said Desy. "They know how to do the drills and what to do once they get to the meets. Ashley remembers all the strokes, which is helpful."
Jan. 3 - at Kingsford; Jan. 12 - at Marquette; Jan. 16 - at Manistique; Jan. 21 - at Kingsford.
Junior hopefuls are all-around swimmers Kayla Wiltzius and Hayley Bedard.
"Both of these girls train extremely hard," said Desy. "Kayla has picked up on her strokes extremely well, and Hayley is getting her strokes down."
Underclassmen include sophomores Josie Gardner (distance and butterfly), Megan Jusch (freestyle and backstroke) and Megan McCann (breaststroke, freestyle and backstroke) and freshman Katelyn Wyman in a variety of events.
"Josie and Katelyn have been swimming in the Y program since age 8," said Desy. "Josie is very athletic and has a command of all her strokes, and Katelyn is willing to do any event. Megan Jusch and Megan McCann have great attitudes and are good workers."
Desy believes the girls' team has depth in some events. "We also have some leaders," he added. "Our experience should be helpful. The natural concern is the number of swimmers we have. We won't be able to cover all the events."
Representing the boys are seniors Tylor Mills and Fred Culvahouse (freestyle and backstroke) and sophomore Austin Servant (breaststroke and butterfly).
"Tylor has been out of swimming for 7-8 years," said Desy. "The surprising thing is he remembers all the strokes, which is pretty good for being out of it that long. Fred trains very hard and wants to keep going. Austin also works hard.
"I think the kids will be surprised by how quickly the high school meets go. Most are done within about 2 1/2 hours. The YMCA meets are sometimes two-day events."