Regardless of the season, regardless of the sport, athletic teams and coaches are always looking for some way to gain a competitive edge.
While there are several different ways to gain that advantage, the most proven, tried and true means of doing so comes from within. For a perfect example look no further than the Waukee High School boys swimming team. In an age where high school teams of any sport can change drastically from one year to the next, the Warrior boys swimming team just keeps on going strong. Following their back-to-back state titles in 2016 and 2017, the Warriors have continued to grace the state swimming meet capturing a fifth-place team finish in 2017-18 and a runner-up finish in the 2018-19 campaign. Now enter the 2019-20 Warriors squad who has once again blazed their way through the regular season having suffered just one dual meet loss all season long.
“We as a program don’t rebuild, we retool and get back out there,” said Warrior head boys swimming coach Dan Briggs.
For this season while upperclassmen leadership from Cameron Linder and others have been critical to success, it’s been what has happened on the younger spectrum that has given the Warriors their competitive edge in the pool. Enter the Waukee freshmen class. A group of 18 swimmers who have given Waukee a significant impact in the pool and will go down as the best freshmen class to date.
“This is by far the best freshmen class I’ve had,” mentioned an excited Briggs. “The class that came close to this group was the group that graduated in 2016-17 but these guys have more depth and faster times right now than most of those 2016-17 guys had their junior years.”
From those 18 freshmen, one-third of them are currently set to battle the district meet coming up this Saturday. Nearly every one of those six freshmen has top 20 times in various events. One such individual includes Asher Havenhill who resides in the top-10 across the state with his 100 Yard Backstroke time of 54.06 seconds. Havenhill has been one of many who have added quite a lot to Waukee swimming and one who has been looking forward to helping the Warriors in the pool for quite some time.
“It’s been a good experience for me,” said Havenhill. “I’ve wanted to be on this team since I was first starting and I used to swim for the Waukee Rays when that used to be a team. I’ve always seemed the practices and now being on this team ins kind of like a dream come true for me.”
Havenhill is part of perhaps the most impactful freshmen class in the state this season. Out of all the varsity freshmen swimmers in the state of Iowa, Waukee has at least one individual with a top-five freshman time in all eight individual events. Another Warrior freshman that has proven critical for Waukee this season has been AJ Abram. After finding success at the club level, Abram has seemingly jumped into the varsity waters with ease and has enjoyed the journey ever step of the way.
“It’s been super fun and a whole new experience for me,” began Abram. “My dad one day just said ‘why don’t you try out swimming tonight’. I was a little skeptical about it at first and as I progressed and gained momentum I really started liking the sport. I was also playing baseball at the time but I eventually ended up quitting that to pursue just swimming.”
And from that decision Abram has become perhaps the most notable freshman across the state, currently holding the fourth-best 100 Yard Freestyle time (47.65 seconds) and the fifth-best 200 Yard Freestyle time (1:45.96) across all classes throughout the state. While the road has had it’s fair share of challenges for the freshmen stars, it’s been well worth it to see their hard work pay off as noted by Abram.
“It’s a really cool feeling to get this kind of recognition,” said Abram. “Swimming isn’t as big of a sport compared to football or basketball so I think it’s really cool to see my name and other teammates’ names on those lists.”
Other freshmen such as Sam Davey, Levi Manning, Cooper Rogers, and James Coffey among others have also been huge in the success of the Warrior swimming team this season. It’s been another successful season so far as Waukee searches for their fifth-straight state meet appearance and third state title in the past five years. There’s no doubt that Waukee boys swimming has quite the edge going into the postseason and a big part of the reason comes from the freshmen advantage.