There's plenty to look forward to for the Tamaqua Blue Raider swim teams this coming season, as both the boys' and girls' squads have plenty of returning talent.
Last season, the Lady Raiders finished at 4-1 in the Schuylkill League with the loss coming to Blue Mountain. Graduation took three of those team members, so the roster's talent is abundant.
Also, one of the main reasons for the aforementioned loss was the lack of a diving board for the Blue Raiders, leading to plenty of valuable points forfeited each meet. However, thanks to some hard work and generous donations, the board has returned and there will be a diving portion for the Tamaqua athletes.
The numbers for both the boys' and girls' programs have increased, as well, leading to plenty of enthusiasm, intersquad competition, and excitement about getting started.
"We have a lot of new swimmers out this season," Tamaqua head swim team coach Ashley Stanek said. "We have a really strong nucleus returning for both teams, so it should be interesting to see how it goes."
Gone from last year's team are Caroline Kanaskie, Denae Starry and Emily Bumbulsky, who all contributed toward the success a year ago. However, moving up to the senior class is a tightly-knit group of student-athletes that are taking the leadership reigns.
Miranda Amey (200 IM, 500 free), Joanne Butkus (100 fly), Carly Trovinger (100 breast), Makayla Boyle (200 free), and Nichelle Pucklavage (200 free) are all stepping into the light of being leaders for the younger girls on the team.
"Obviously, those three girls were great swimmers and will be missed, but I'm so impressed with the leadership on this team," Stanek said. "At practices, everyone is working so hard and this group of seniors is making a point to set the standard for work ethic to the other girls."
Junior Danielle Decindio (relays) is also adding to that list of experience and aiding in spearheading this year's squad.
"We have some new swimmers coming into the program this season and it should be interesting to see how they fit into things," Stanek said. "But the solid nucleus of girls taking on the leadership role have been great with making the transition easy."
On the boys' side, the ever-improving group of swimmers at Tamaqua returns plenty of talent and is hoping to continue becoming better.
"As the season progressed last year, everyone improved on the team, which was great to see," Stanek said. "This year, the numbers of participating swimmers are up, and that helps a lot. There are a couple of seniors and juniors on the team that are helping with the leadership role, and combine that with the newcomers, it should cause for an interesting season to watch happen."
Returning to the team from a season ago are seniors Jake Kropp (100 Back), Matt Stanek (500 Free), and Jake Wenzel (200 Free), juniors Gage Whalen (200 IM) and Ethan Eberts (100 Free), along with sophomores Patrick McMullen (100 Breast) and Ben Turrano (100 Fly).
Adding into the mix this season are divers on both the girls and boys sides. According to coach Stanek, there are two girls participating in the diving events, while five male athletes take part.
"All the divers have been working extra hard so far," she said. "Once they all get a little experience under their belts, that should hopefully help them improve."
Early on, Coach Stanek appreciates the hard work and it is leading to good things.
"All of the swimmers have their individual goals that they want to work on as the season progresses," she said. "We talked about what they want to accomplish as individuals, and I hope they can all attain them and improve along the way.
"Hopefully, if they can work towards and accomplish their individual goals, the team goals should likely follow."