The Newton boys swim team will have to do more with less this season, but it has the right personnel to do so.
Led by a strong senior group, some potent underclassmen and a few new faces, the Cardinals look to improve upon last year’s sixth-place showing at districts.
Despite having to replace eight seniors from last year, there’s plenty of optimism to go around just from what the team returns.
“I’m really enthused about what we have coming back,” Newton coach Dave Hook said. “We have a big, strong senior class. They’re the veterans of the team and I’m feeling good about them.”
The Cardinals feature eight seniors on the squad this year. Several of them had top 10-showings in individual events at districts last year. Luke Norcross took seventh in the 200-yard individual medley and ninth in the 100 backstroke, Ryan Jolivette was ninth in the 200 freestyle and Cody Maxwell was 10th in the 100 breaststroke.
The biggest departure from last year’s team was 2012 graduate Matt Thoma — who last year became the first Newton boy to go to state since the 2008. There, he took 23rd in the 100 freestyle.
Hook hopes that Thoma’s example is something that will motivate this year’s swimmers.
“I think it showed them that they can do it too,” he said. “Hopefully seeing that inspires them and gives a sense of confidence that they can do it also.”
Of the eight individual events, the Cardinals return their top swimmer from last year in six of them. That includes Jolivette in the 200 freestyle, Norcross in the 200 IM and 100 backstroke, sophomore Brandon Miller in the 100 butterfly, senior Spencer Hook in the 500 freestyle and Maxwell in the 100 breaststroke.
Besides the returnees, Newton has some new faces on the roster of 17 as well. Hook said he’s excited about senior foreign exchange student Matheus Pinto, along with freshman Austin Bunker. Both will contribute immediately to the varsity lineup.
Pinto had a coming out party in the Cards’ season-opening meet Tuesday night, winning the 200-meter individual medley, 100 freestyle and was part of two winning relays.
“We’re looking to get stronger and be more competitive in meets this season,” Hook said. “What’s really nice is that we have a strong person in each event.”
Newton began its season with a bang on Tuesday, defeating Ottumwa 59-35 and Southeast Polk 55-39 at the Newton YMCA. The Cardinals won eight of the 11 events, and the 200 freestyle relay team of Norcross, Bunker, Jolivette and Pinto set a new school record of 1 minute, 45.06 seconds — breaking the 16-year-old mark of 1:45.44 set in 1996. It was the first time a school record had been broken in any event since 2007.
The Cardinals’ next meet is Thursday in a triangular at Des Moines Lincoln with Waukee. After that, they host a five-team invitational Saturday at the Newton Y. Newton hosts four meets in all this season.