WALLA WALLA — With two returning state competitors and a plethora of young talent, the Walla Walla High School girls swimming team looks for a successful 2013 campaign.
Two of those newcomers are freshmen Mackenzie Hale and Lacey Klem.
Wa-Hi head coach Katharine Curles said the duo is set to make a serious splash this season.
After finishing time trials last weekend, Curles said Hale is already approaching state marks.
“It’s really exciting,” Curles said of her freshmen. “I think the two of them (provide) a lot of motivation for our freshmen who are learning to swim. I’ve watched these girls grow up and fall in love with the sport. Their enthusiasm is raw and it’s awesome to be able to harness that into high school swimming.”
Curles and Klem are just two of the Blue Devils’ swimmers that have developed with Curles. She spent the 2008-09 season as an assistant under former coach Brad Daly. Now in her third season as head coach, Curles is watching swimmers grow up before her eyes.
“(For) a lot of them, I was there when they put their face in the water,” Curles said. “It’s such a cool thing to watch. To see that cohesiveness happening. I think it was interesting losing our nine leaders last year. I’ve loved watching the seniors, juniors and even sophomores jumping into where they need to be.”
Outside of the talented youngsters, Wa-Hi also features some impressive returners. Seniors Emma Timm-Ballard and Natalie Fink were members of the record-breaking relays at the Washington Class 4A state meet last season. They teamed with graduated seniors Cheyenne Schoen and Abby Crowley to break school records in both the 400 free relay and 200 medley relay.
Timm-Ballard also finished seventh in both the 100 backstroke and 200 freestyle at the state meet.
More so than their performance in the pool, Curles said she is counting on her seniors to help her eight freshmen adapt to the rigors of high school swimming.
“More than anything, the team is very cohesive right now, which is wonderful,” Curles said. “Our seniors and juniors are being intentional about reaching out to the underclassmen. It’s really cool to see that community forming.”
With both seniors back in the fold, Curles is looking to the relays as a major asset again this season.
In the backstroke, Timm-Ballard and fellow senior Ellie Rassbach also give the Blue Devils a potent 1-2 punch, Curles said.
All-in-all, Curles said this is the most athletic core of girls she has coached.
“We’re doing a lot more injury prevention on land, so hopefully when we’re in the water we’ll be injury free,” Curles said. “I think it should be a really good year.”
The Blue Devils open their season Saturday evening at the Richland Twilight meet.