North Kingstown swim teams prepare for first meet of winter season
They are both 17 and seniors.
Their squads kick off the winter season on Friday with a meet against East Greenwich. The competition will take place at Fox Point in Providence. Coaches Leslie Becki and Kathy Carlson anticipate the Skippers will be ready.
Last year, the girls finished second behind South Kingstown at the state meet. The boys finished third.
Besides Ben, the islanders on the boys’ team are junior Robert Cassidy, 16, and sophomores Findlay Mulligan and Noah Simmons, both 15.
The girls’ team will have a good shot at capturing the state title this year, Carlson said, while the boys are in a rebuilding year due to the loss of six seniors.
“Our girls’ team is very strong,” she said. Most of the swimmers on last year’s squad are returning. “We only lost two. A lot came back, and we gained a lot of really good freshmen.”
Jamestown’s Raeann Niebel is considered one of the top swimmers. Her family moved to the island this year, so this is her first season as a Skipper.
Raeann competed in crosscountry in the fall.
According to Carlson, she is a good runner and “very good swimmer.”
Another newcomer, Kim Savage, is expected to be a factor in the state competition.
“Her freestyle looks pretty good,” said Carlson. “She’s showing some potential.”
Her best event is the 50-meter freestyle.
Junior Hailey Cassidy, 16, and sophomore Isabelle Landon, 15, are the other Jamestown swimmers on the girls’ team.
“We definitely want to place in the top two at the states and maybe take down South Kingstown,” Emily said.
North Kingstown’s other big rival is Prout. Last year, the Crusaders edged out the Skippers. Emily wants to turn that result around this year.
But she’s not only focused on beating Prout.
“Maybe go undefeated,” she said.
The snowstorm in December forced the cancellation of the first meet, Carlson said, so this week’s meet against the Avengers will be the first time the squads are in action.
The coaches expect both teams to do well.
“We’re in a rebuilding year for the boys,” Becki said. “We hope to be competitive.”
Some talented new Skippers have made this year’s roster, and the hope is, they can step up. The boys can expect tough competitions, especially against Hendricken and Smithfield. Although Bishop Hendricken continued its dynasty and won the state title again last season, the 2013 Skippers managed to stun the Hawks during the regular season.
Of course, the Skippers would like to repeat last year’s success and top the Hawks again.
Win or lose, Carlson said, the athletes will give their best effort. North Kingstown’s swimming teams have won the sportsmanship award for the past two years running, and that’s not by accident. According to the coaches, the school has a great group of kids and the athletes understand the expectations.
“Coach Becki expects that out of the team,” said Carlson. “We’re all about sportsmanship. Our team captains are really good at making sure hands get shaken.”
The swimmers said they are enjoying the social activities, such as the weekly pasta dinners. The team seems to be bonding, Emily said.
“I guess we’re hoping to do well,” Ben added. “We’re expecting good things from the new swimmers. They have a lot of potential.”
The Skippers will bring good swimmers to every meet, Robert said. “I’d like to see us have a really solid state tournament.”
He acknowledged the team lost its top swimmers to graduation, but the squad still has some good athletes.
Mike Toolin, of North Kingstown, may be the best on this year’s team. He won an individual race at last year’s tournament.
“Cassidy’s all right,” Mike said, grinning at Robert. “Noah’s got potential.”
Noah said he is looking forward to a good meet against Hendricken.
“Hendricken’s always tough. We were lucky enough to get a win last year.”
Findlay joined the team this year. “I’m new at this,” he said.
Emily said the girls will have tough challenges against Barrington and Smithfield, but they won’t see the Rebels until the states.
That’s because North Kingstown High is a Division I school, and South Kingstown plays in Division II.
If you ask Hailey, the undefeated season is not out of the question.
“Last year, we only lost one dual meet,” she said.