As another season begins for Carthage’s boys’ swim team, head coach Braden McBride is starting to see a transition in the team’s strength.

As another season begins for Carthage’s boys’ swim team, head coach Braden McBride is starting to see a transition in the team’s strength.

In most years the Tigers can compete well in freestyle events, but the other, more specialized events aren’t necessarily a strength.

“I see it starting to become more of a specialized team, being able to compete in the breaststroke, the backstroke, the fly as well as the freestyle which is a good thing,” McBride said Wednesday. “You can take an athlete and get them to learn the freestyle and go on but now everybody knows how to freestyle so we can fine tune those other strokes.”

It’s the benefit of having an experienced group of swimmers this fall. Of 14 members of the team, all but a pair has swum competitively, with many competing for the Carthage Aquatic Team during the summer months.

The team is led by senior Will Mansfield, a four-year swimmer who McBride said has stepped up his training this summer, working a lot on his own.

“We’re hoping for big things from him,” McBride said. “He’s a sprinter, a 50 and 100 freestyle guy, and he also is pretty talented in the 100 fly. We’re hoping if everything falls correctly he could qualify to go to the state swim meet this year as a senior.”

The team has three other seniors: Josh Smith, Lloyd Slichenmeyer and Sawyer Huelat. Huelat is a second-year swimmer and Slichenmeyer is a first-year member of the team, while Smith is another four-year swimmer.

“While two guys on the team have never swam competitively, everybody else has so that’s a good thing,” McBride said. “Unfortunately getting the early start we’ve had this year, a lot of guys have been away on trips during the practice season so it’s going to be a meet or two before we can go in with all 14 swimmers because some are still trying to get some practices in.”

McBride said he has four talented freshmen on the team in Payton Williams, a good breaststroke and backstroke swimmer; Dylan Calhoun, who could develop into a middle distance swimmer; and Dylan Jones and Jacob Harden, who don’t have as much experience as some others.

“The majority swam on the local community swim team over the summer so instead of teaching strokes to them we’re just refining techniques,” McBride said. “I’m pretty optimistic. We lost three seniors last year, but I think we could be competitive.”

A combination of the early start to the practice season this year and so many experienced swimmers returning means the Tigers are further along at this point in the season than other years. Half the team is in pretty good shape, the other half not necessarily, according to McBride, but all of them can compete in different strokes.

Several Tigers had impressive performances in Tuesday’s Springfield Relays, a practice meet before Carthage competes in the Springfield Quad on Thursday.

Carthage won four events at the Relays – the 400 medley relay, 200 backstroke relay, 300 freestyle relay and 500 free relay. In the 400 medley, Mansfield, Williams, Morgan Holt and Josiah Loveall won with a time of 4:04.86; Loveall finished his leg in under a minute.

In the 200 backstroke, Williams, Josh Sneed, Josh Smith and Jacob Smith  finished in 2:07.26; Sneed finished in less than 30 seconds.

The 300 freestyle relay team consisted of Sneed, Loveall, Calhoun and Jacob Smith and finished in 2:50.99, and the 500 free team was Mansfield, Loveall, Holt, Sneed, Calhoun, Jacob Smith, Tyler Holzwarth, Kellan Huelat, Josh Smith and Sawyer Huelat. They finished in 4:35.2.

The 200 free relay team placed eighth in 1:54.24; Mansfield, Holt and Calhoun finished fourth in the 600 free relay (6:40.44); and the 200 breaststroke relay placed second with Williams, Holzwarth, Kellan Huelat and Sawyer Huelat finished in 2:24.57.

In the team’s first dual on Thursday in Springfield the Tigers will match up with a Hillcrest team comparable in both ability and size.

“That’ll tell a lot about how the season’s going to go,” McBride said.

The three main meets the team is focused on will be the Carthage Invitational on Sept. 26, the Central Ozarks Conference meet on Oct. 14 and the Southwest Missouri Championships in late October/early November.

“Our goal is always to have a winning dual record and to qualify as many individuals as we can for the second day of the Southwest Championships,” McBride said. “Swimming well at the COC is still a goal, too. Webb City, their numbers are down but the ones they have are pretty awesome. Ozark, Webb City, Nixa and ourselves will be the four kind of jockeying for those top three spots.”

Carthage’s first home event will be next Tuesday, Sept. 2, when the Tigers host Joplin, Lamar, Nevada and Bolivar for the Carthage Quad. Joplin has a few state qualifiers and beat Carthage in some events Tuesday.

“They’re going to be pretty tough,” McBride said. “We’re looking forward to it and getting better.”