Flashes eye elusive state swim title

Published 10:09 am Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Bruce Ebersole has been doing the math, and it doesn’t look good for his St. Aloysius swim team.

The Flashes, last year’s state runner-up, appear to be a little bit short on points this year as they head into the MAIS State Swimming Championship Wednesday in Jackson. He’s hoping the numbers coming out of the water look a lot better than the ones going in, though.

“Last year it took about 250 points to win the meet, and this year on paper I can come up with about 210,” Ebersole said. “I don’t know how we’re going to get 250, but like I told the team, you have to still swim because a meet on paper is just a meet on paper. Everyone has to go in there and swim.”

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Even if they don’t win, the Flashes are looking for a top-three finish Wednesday. They were second last year, nine points short of Jackson Prep. The difference was a disqualification for a false start in the girls’ 200-yard freestyle relay. St. Al won that race in the pool, but the 10 points that were taken away allowed Jackson Prep to overtake it for the title.

Jackson Prep has won the state title all 42 years the MAIS meet has been held.

“That was our first year being in the MAIS,” Ebersole said. “We almost won the meet. We had just an unfortunate disqualification, but there are other ways we could have won the meet too.”

Ebersole said the Flashes have shaken off the loss and are working toward moving forward this year.

“Mistakes happen. We try to learn from them. That’s the important thing,” Ebersole said.

A major component of swimming is depth, and this year’s team is Ebersole’s biggest yet with 23 swimmers. He said there is a little more depth on the boys’ team than the girls’ team.

The maximum number of swimmers a team can have competing in the state meet is 48, and he is sure Jackson Prep will have nearly that many swimmers on their team. That gives Jackson Prep a huge advantage in the team scores, since it can collect points from several swimmers in each race. Eventually, even getting one and two points for low finishes adds up.

With fewer swimmers, St. Al and other small teams need to rack up as many wins and quality swims as they can jsut to keep up with the Patriots.

“Depth is always an issue for us,” Ebersole said. “If we’re good enough, we can overcome the numbers like we did last year.”

The sheer size of the Jackson Prep team and the dominance over its competition puts St. Al in an underdog position, but Ebersole does not see that as a bad place to be.

“That’s OK. I don’t mind being an underdog. There is really no pressure on us,” he said. “When you’ve won it for 40 years and you’ve never lost, I think the pressure is more on them.”

Last year’s St. Al team of 20 was senior-laden, but this year’s only has one senior. Freshmen Tommy Martin and Adam Eckstein have stood out this season, Ebersole said, as well as their siblings senior Charlie Martin and junior Adrienne Eckstein.

“We’re young. We have a handful who have never swam competitively before,” Ebersole said, which gives the team hope for the future even if it doesn’t dethrone Jackson Prep this year.

He said the team has been practicing hard to finish out the season strong, and has two more meets scheduled after the championship. Saturday there will be a meet against MHSAA teams at the St. Joseph Bruin Invitational, and then in mid-October they’ll attend a meet at Alexandria High School in Louisiana.

“The kids are in good shape,” Ebersole said. “They’re working hard, and they’re doing well. We’ll give it our best and see what happens. We’ll try not to make any mistakes and hope they maybe make one or two.”