The Chi-Hi boys swimming team will not be large in numbers this season.
With a little more than a dozen swimmers, the Cardinals will be smaller than most teams they compete against. However despite that lack of competitors, second-year coach Nick Hora said the expectations for he and his team are as high this winter.
“We’re really excited because we have talent and we have high goals but it is going to be harder than we might’ve thought to achieve those,” Hora said. “So we’ll keep working hard and see what happens.”
The team returns a number of solid swimmers from last season, athletes that finished well at sectionals and could be in line to compete for berths at the state meet.
Ian Olson finished sixth in the 100-yard breaststroke at sectionals and could be in the conversation for a sectional title and trip to state this year. Zach Topritzhofer took eighth in the 200 and 500 freestyle events at sectionals and Alan Fox was eighth in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke and both very well could be in the running for trips to Madison.
Matt Blake was an alternate for sectionals but Hora expects him to perform well in freestyle events as well as with relay teams.
As Hora starts his second season leading the program, the familiarity the team has with him with expectations and communication.
“They seem excited and they’re prepared to work hard. Last year with me being a new coach they didn’t know what to expect and this year they’re prepared and they know what I expect from them and they come every day ready to do that,” Hora said.
Another things about the Cardinals that has jumped out at their coach is their volume. Despite the smaller numbers, Hora said his team is as supportive and audible as any around the pool, never afraid to cheer teammates on.
“Even though we don’t have a big team we’re loud at meets and we’re cheering for each other and we’re getting each other excited to swim fast,” Hora said.
The season is already underway for the Cardinals with the team most recently in action at the program’s annual Chi-Hi invite last Saturday at Chippewa Falls Middle School Pool. Chi-Hi finished in second place, being edged out by Wisconsin Rapids 304-292 for the top spot in the team standings.
Topritzhofer (500 freestyle) and Olson (50 breaststroke) were victorious in individual action at the invite while the 400 freestyle relay and Topritzhofer (200 freestyle) also picked up second-place finishes.
Fox (50 backstroke) and the 200 medley relay team of Fox, Olson, Jack Metza and Matt Blake were each third, Cooper Porzondek was fourth in the breaststroke and fifth in the 100 freestyle and Olson took fifth in the 100 individual medley.
Blake was sixth in the 100 freestyle and the 200 freestyle relay unit of Porzondek, Topritzhofer, Clayton Williams and Trey Gerberding finished sixth.
“Obviously the boys were bummed they didn’t win but they all swam season if not lifetime bests. So it was definitely worth it in the end,” Hora said.
The Cardinals return to action on Thursday at home in a dual against River Falls before hosting Eau Claire North/Eau Claire Memorial on Dec. 14. Following those two home events, Chi-Hi has just one more home event of the season, a dual against Menomonie on Jan. 9.
This year’s Big Rivers Conference tournament takes place on Feb. 3 at Eau Claire Memorial before Division 1 sectionals are held one week later hosted by Wisconsin Rapids in Stevens Point. Hora said his team is getting in better shape and is expecting to crank up its training intensity over the holiday break, aiming to be in prime condition by the stretch run of the season.
“We don’t really mind what the outcome of things are, we just want to get better as a team and I think the boys really understand that,” Hora said. “I still have really high goals and everybody on the team still wants to win, no matter what happens we’re still going to come every day and try to win.”