LONGMONT — Having coached the Silver Creek High School girls swim team since its inception 13 years ago, Raptors head swim coach Debbie Stewart has learned to temper her expectations prior to each season.
Knowing how young the bulk of her roster would be in 2013-14, Stewart weighed promise against the danger of expectation, which her lengthy coaching career has taught her to do. Almost two months into the season, Stewart can relax a bit, as her young team’s promise is beginning to tip the scales.
The Raptors’ young lineup is starting to live up to its potential. With her commitment to improving, sophomore Jenna Latsko is leading the charge.
“Jenna has been a year-round swimmer but she did switch teams in August and it’s showed that it was a good move,” Stewart said. “Her breaststroke is one of the tops in the state and when we swam at the Coaches Invitational, she did really well. She has such a passion and love to swim that she wanted to go to the next level. Making the commitment and drive to work hard at it is starting to pay off.”
Latsko capped her freshman season last year with a 1-minute, 12.38-second race in the consolation finals at the 4A state meet in February. At the all-classification Colorado Coaches Invitational on Dec. 21, Latsko touched the wall in 1:09.35 to take sixth place in the 100 breaststroke.
Her freshman performance left plenty of reason to expect Latsko to remain among the state’s best as she matured. But cutting over three seconds off an already low time like her state mark last season doesn’t just happen with age.
That type of improvement required a conscious decision on Latsko’s part to make it happen. Apart from her training, Latsko said switching to the RACE club swim team out of RallySport Health and Fitness Club in Boulder has made the difference.
“That’s helped me a lot,” Latsko said. “It’s a lot more inclusive of a team and I get to swim with Hannah Driscoll (Niwot state champion) and Kylie Rembert (senior teammate) from the St. Vrain. I get to know the girls in the area, which keeps me going and helps me stay motivated.”
In one short year, Latsko has gone from freshman newcomer to a threat to break the 100 backstroke school record at Silver Creek by the time she graduates.
“I feel like it makes be better to shoot for it. Even if I don’t reach it, I’m still going faster and faster,” Latsko said. “But most of all this year, I would like to make the finals at state for breaststroke and probably the final in the 200 IM.”
Building confidence as a product of her success, Latsko also has gotten a huge boost from the relationship she’s developed with Rembert, the Raptors’ senior leader.
Rembert, who placed 11th in the 100 freestyle at last year’s state meet, struggled with the added pressure early in her high school career and knows it can be tough for an underclassman to keep the confidence level high. The veteran’s advice has worked wonders for the sophomore standout.
“It’s Kylie’s last year on the team. I’ve gotten to know her really well and I’ve pushed myself harder this year than last year because of her,” Latsko said. “Last year, I was just out to see how good I could do and what would happen. This year, I know how good I can be and I know what it takes to get to where I want to go.”
When Rembert did so in the 100 and 200 freestyle, and Latsko in the 100 breaststroke, this year marked the first time Silver Creek had ever made it out of preliminaries in three different events at the Colorado Coaches Invitational. Hoping to lead the Raptors to a top 10 finish at state, Latsko and Rembert are determined to qualify in every event. Rembert already has in all but the 200 IM.
Rembert said Latsko isn’t the only member of the Raptors junior and sophomore group that is improving rapidly. With the Longmont All-City swim meet on tap for Saturday, the Raptors’ senior leader can’t wait to show the other area schools what her team can do.
“We have a lot of new swimmers that are stepping up as they progress and get faster,” Rembert said. “We’re using this meet to help gain excitement and get some newer people qualified for state. It’s great to swim in that atmosphere with so many people in the building and so many good swimmers from around our area.”
Follow Brad on twitter: twitter.com/BradCochi