COVINGTON, Ga. - The Eastside Eagles swim team is off to a 3-0 start at the beginning of their season despite head coach DeAnna O'Brien calling this year a rebuilding year.
O'Brien highlights the newness of the members of her team as the main reasons she refers to this year as being a rebuilding year. The Eagles have 35 total swimmers, and only 22 are returning swimmers.
One of the Eagles outstanding returning swimmers is Alice Kennedy, who was the only Eagle to qualify for state last year. She has already played a part in the breaking of two team records and she is poised to build on an already impressive resume.
O'Brien says that Kennedy hopes to qualify for more events at state this year so she can choose which events she will compete in at that level.
With a few strong returning swimmers like Kennedy, There has been an influx of new swimmers. This increase in swimmers comes from a variety of factors, according to O'Brien, but she credits the ability to finally move the Eagles practices from the Morgan County Aquatic Center to Oxford College as a huge factor. The move in facilities shifted the drivetime for practice for the Eagles swimmers from 30-40 minutes to 5-10 minutes.
With 13 new swimmers, O'Brien stressed the importance for some of these younger swimmers to learn the various strokes and to help them understand the level of commitment it takes to be an accomplished swimmer.
She credits some of her returning swimmers for taking on leadership roles and helping some of the younger swimmers along as they get acclimated to the program. Two athletes that she immediately highlighted were her two team captains, who are senior Corinne Hanson and junior Austin O'Brien.
"This year we have two captains, senior Corinne Hanson and junior Austin O'Brien and they have been very instrumental in helping us share with the team how important it is for each person to give 100%," O'Brien said. "They have really pushed the idea that we are only as strong as our weakest link, and those captains were voted on by last year's team, so it speaks volumes that their teammates chose them as co-captains."
Seeing her athletes help each other and take on a team-first mentality is precisely what she wants, and it is even the motto of this year's team, which is, "We win together, and we fall together."
This focus seems to be working since the Eagles are undefeated, but their success extends even farther than that as they have already broken four team records in this early portion of the season.
The sky seems to be the limit for this "rebuilding" Eastside swimming team, and as they continue to grow and develop as a team, then they will only get stronger. The Eagles' next meet is the Heritage Invite at the Johnson Park Aquatic Center on Saturday, Dec. 7.
Coach O'Brien believes that Heritage's swim team may be the Eagles' biggest test yet and should provide a strong challenge.
"I definitely think that this meet will be some of the stiffest competition we will have faced this season. Heritage has a fantastic swim team; they are a large swim team and have good numbers," O'Brien said. "We need to maintain our focus and show up ready to swim."