They graduated two of the top swimmers in Indian River High School history, in Mason Sanders and Lauren McCoy.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is a youth infusion of new swimmers joining the ranks and returning veterans coming back even stronger has Indian River High School head swimming coach Colin Crandel with not only hopes for a fourth straight division title for both the boys and girls, but a possible first-ever conference title for the boys as well.
“The boys’ team doubled in size — we’ve got more talent than I anticipated, so I’m really excited about our chances,” Crandel said. “It’s a really good moldable group that I can work with.
“With the boys, I anticipated a rebuilding year, but more of them came out than I anticipated, and they’re more talented than I anticipated.”
Headlining the squad is junior Jonathan Kohr and his younger brother Max Kohr, both ready for breakout years after spending the off-season training.
“They put in hours upon hours lifesaving, training with some of the best lifeguards in the country,” said IRHS assistant coach and Bethany Beach Patrol veteran Steve O’Boyle.
“As long as you’re doing some kind of off-season work, Colin can take care of the rest. It’s as simple as that. If you come here fit, Colin can take care of the technique.”
In addition to the off-season workouts, the Kohr brothers are also using the sibling rivalry to motivate each other in the pool.
“Whoever pushes the hardest,” said Jonathan Kohr with a laugh as to who usually wins between the two of them. “When we get in the water, we push each other competition-wise.”
“It works,” added Max Kohr. “For the 50 [freestyle], it’s gonna be really crazy. That’s what we’ve been doing.”
Joining the brothers Kohr on the boys’ squad will be junior Garrett Bomhardt and sophomore Michael Barnes, who also spent the off-season training hard with the Bethany Beach Patrol as a junior guard and is ready for his own breakout year.
Among the newcomers are sophomore Mitch McGee, freshmen Josh McIntire and Ryan Stone, and junior transfer Blake Shuart.
“Everyone has a positive attitude,” Max Kohr said of the new lineup. “I think, with the mindset of this team, we have a good shot at winning the conference.”
“My sophomores that returned have tremendously improved. Our depth now is where we want it to be,” added Crandel.
As for the girls, they may have graduated McCoy, but they still return three of the four members of the relay team that set the school’s 400-free relay record just last season.
While the numbers are down from the last season, seniors McKenna Burke, Erin Haden and Lindsey Grow are all coming off All-Conference seasons and spent the summer on the guard stand together in Middlesex, returning with high hopes for a fourth straight South title.
“We have to win it our senior year. That’s what we’re all saying. We’re doing it for Lauren,” said Burke. “We have a lot of new swimmers this year, a lot of new girls, but they all have a lot of potential.”
Critical in the new swimmers’ development this season have been the fins donated by the Seeney family, which Crandel said have already made an impact.
“More than any other year, I’ve changed my approach, because I’ve had such an influx of new swimmers,” he explained after expressing his gratitude to the Seeney family and their donation. “The fins open up so many things, and they’re all going to benefit from it. We can do what we’ve always wanted to do in terms of drill work, flexibility and strength. It allows them to learn to do what they can’t do.”
The Indians got put to the test during their first meet on Tuesday, Dec. 6, with the boys earning a 63-31 win over Dover but the girls falling to the Senators 66-28 and having to swim without Haden.
The boys will look to stretch to 2-0 on Tuesday, Dec. 13, when they head up to Lake Forest for their first Henlopen South matchup, with the girls looking to crack the win column at that meet as well.
“We’ve got a lot of versatility this year — more than we’ve had. This year, we have five or six kids that can swim in all of the events,” said Crandel. “I’m excited to see where we’ll be in January.”
Boys' results vs. Dover:
200 Medley Relay: IR Stuart, Tuttle, McIntire, Kohr, 1:52.49
200 Freestyle: IR Banks, 2:02.73
200 Individual Medley: D Straker, 2:22.10
50 Freestyle: IR Kohr, 24.31
100 Butterfly: IR McIntire, 57.12
100 Freestyle: IR Barnes, 54.63
500 Freestyle: IR McIntire, 5:17.52
200 Free Relay: D Saxton, Straker, Hallock, Kramer, 1:44.35
100 Backstroke: IR Stuart 1;03.62
100 Breaststroke: IR Banks 1:11.62
400 Free Relay: IR Banks, Kohr, Stuart, McIntire
Girls' results vs. Dover:
200 Medley Relay: D, Stevenson, Steed, Dyer, Barnes, 2:02.08
200 Freestyle: IR Grow 2:15.01
200 Individual Medley: D Barnes, 2:29.73
50 Freestyle: D Dyer, 27.71
100 Butterfly: IR Burke, 1:10.49
100 Freestyle: D Stevenson, 58.58
500 Freestyle: D Synoski, 7:00.68
200 Free Relay: D Gast, Stevenson, Barnes, Dyer, 1:51.36
100 Backstroke: D Stevenson, 1:06.95
100 Breaststroke: D Barnes, 1:12.60
400 Free Relay: D Bruce, Gast, Synoski, Steed, 4:34.07