BENNINGTON — Mount Anthony Union High School swim team coach Anna Swierad has in spades what coaches all over want — youth and experience.
Usually that means a lot of seniors and freshmen, with not many in between.
That's not the case here, where there is youth and experience in most of her swimmers, regardless of age. Out of 27 swimmers total, 13 are freshmen.
Swierad, along with assistants Ann Webster Lang and MAU swim team alum Ashley Dunican, hope that 2015-16 can be better than both teams' 5-5 finish a year ago.
"I'm very excited about this, I'm going to have a team for the next few years," Swierad said. "More freshmen came out than expected."
There's also a good amount of leadership from the older swimmers. There are 18 on the girls side and nine are freshmen. They're led by seniors Bridget Ahearn and Phebe Hall, the captains, and classmate Shelby Haynes, another returning swimmer.
"Bridget and Phebe are strong returners, I've been fortunate to have them since middle school," Swierad said. "I can put them in any event and they'll do it. Bridget is a fast freestyler and Phebe just missed the breaststroke [time] by .01 second for all-Berkshire [league]. She wants to bring the breaststroke record to MAU."
Four juniors don the caps for the Patriots, including Summer Lampron, Jami Mathers, Munroe Ports and Jena Staab. All have been swimming for years, all the way down to the middle school level.
"Jami battles injuries and still swims and she's the team's biggest cheerleader," Swierad said. "Munroe has been swimming since middle school, although she'll miss the first meet and Jena comes from Arlington and everyone loves her. Watching them, you'd never know which kids are from Arlington or Mount Anthony, they all get along."
A handful of Mount Anthony swimmers are in a cooperative agreement as the Patriots are the only swim team in Vermont.
There's only two sophomores, foreign exchange student Aibeka Mamasaldova and Ashley Steinhoff, and nine freshmen — Emily Calder, Chloe Gore, Hayleigh Loomis, Raven Realmuto, Savannah Robson, Hanna Sanderson, Lily Spencer, Shaana Staab and Caroline Worthington.
Calder will be a long-distance specialist, while Robson can enter any event. Spencer will focus on individual medley and breaststroke.
"Emily will be good right away. Chole and Hayleigh have taken to the sport. Savannah has a lot of talent and Shaana and Lily have been swimming for a while. Raven and Hanna will be a part of the relays and Caroline has really stepped up for us in the freestyle," Swierad said.
There's nine swimmers on the boys side, but that's a pretty good number, Swierad said, because it gives Mount Anthony at least three relay events in which they can compete.
"A lot of the other teams don't have enough for a relay," Swierad said.
The top male swimmers is sophomore Zach LaForest, who made the all-Berkshire League team with a near-record effort in the freestyle. Seniors Kevin Gorry and Andrew Spencer are the senior captains — each has swam for the Patriots for a number of seasons.
"Zach was so close and the ones ahead of him graduated," Swierad said.
Sophomores Owen Denue and Morgan Flynn will make their mark in the relays, although both will race individual events as well.
Four freshmen round out the list, including Adam Sampsell, Tristain Thomas, Caden Watson and Luke Williams.
Swierad said that Monument Mountain will be one of the tougher teams in the Berkshire League, but past that, it's anyone guess.
"I'll know more after the first meet, we have to take each meet as it comes," Swierad said.