Oak Harbor High School swim coach Amy Merkley’s plans for getting her team up to speed were put on ice — or more precisely, in ice water.
The vast majority of Merkley’s team members this winter are new to the sport, so she pushed all but one early meet to later in the season to give her rookies time to learn the techniques of competitive swimming.
That extra pool time vanished when the boiler that heats the John Vanderzicht Memorial Pool broke just as the Wildcats began practice in mid-November. Merkley kept her athletes out of the water as much as possible to avoid the uncomfortable conditions.
“I had a grand vision to get the team ready,” Merkley said, “then the heater broke.”
“The kids’ attitudes are really good, really positive,” she added. “They are a great group. They want to learn, to do new things. They are very coachable.”
The swimmers handled the cold water well for the first week and a half, “then it became a drag,” according to Merkley.
“We didn’t lose anybody because of the cold water, just pool time,” she added.
Merkley had her team do more dry-land work to keep them out of the water.
“We would warm up, jump in for sprints and jump out to warm up again,” she said.
Dive coach River Powers provided her athletes with blankets to keep them warm between practice dives, but even that didn’t stop teeth from chattering.
The boiler was repaired just in time for Oak Harbor’s first home meet Wednesday, Jan. 3. Monroe (1-3-1) defeated the inexperienced Wildcats 100-83.
After competing only once in the first seven weeks, Oak Harbor is beginning a stretch of three meets in four school days.
Thursday, Jan. 4, the Wildcats (0-4) join Everett (1-4) in Lake Stevens (3-0) for a 3:15 p.m. double-dual meet. At 5:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 8, Oak Harbor hosts its only other home meet of the season when Mount Vernon (1-1-1) visits.
Monroe 100, Oak Harbor 83
The Bearcats captured 10 of the 12 events on the way to the win Wednesday.
Aaron Martinez took part in both Oak Harbor firsts, winning the 100-meter freestyle (1:08.48) and 200 free relay (2:02.33) with Micah Franklin, Rylan Quiros and Lawrence Zapanta.
Other Oak Harbor results
Second: Martinez, 200 free, 2:45.53; Zapanta, 200 individual medley, 2:56.38; Franklin, 100 butterfly, 1:14.59; 100 backstroke, 1:21.5; Garrett Karney, 400 free, 6:07.76; Quiros, 100 breaststroke, 1:33.82; 200 medley relay (Franklin, Quiros, Zapanta, Karney), 2:16.92; 400 free relay (Karney, Pablo Closson, Kyto Morrow, Martinez), 5:06.76.
Third: Quiros, 50 free, 29.04; Morrow, diving, 101.3; Zapanta, 100 fly, 1:30.84; Matt Kolden, 100 back, 1:23.72; John Francisco, 100 breast, 1:48.84; 200 medley relay (Kolden, Morrow, Closson, Francisco), 2:36.97; 200 free relay (Yuji Caballero, Francisco, Clifford Hartley, Claude Thrailkill), 2:25.21.
Fourth: Caballero, 200 free, 3:35.19; Karney, 200 IM, 3:10.69; Hartley, 50 free, 31; Dallas Riddle-Stevens, diving, 93.65; Francisco, 100 free, 1:26.44; Closson, 400 free, 6:44.21; 400 free relay (Hartley, Thrailkill, Caballero, Kolden), 5:59.28.
Fifth: Andrew Lof, 200 free, 3:45.49; 400 free, 8:12.35; Closson, 200 IM, 3:36.07; Thrailkill, diving, .82; Kyle Torres, 100 back, 2:11.38; Riley Williamson, 100 breast, 1:59.16; 200 free relay (Samuel Noel, Riddle-Stevens, Williamson, Ethan Wilson), 2:31.8; 400 free relay (Lof, Hunter Tuzzolo, Torres, Noel), 6:50.83.