It may be a new team, but Sequim’s new boys swim team coach Anita Benitez says it has a familiar feeling.
“I feel like I’m in my third or fourth year with the girls (team),” she said.
Benitez, also Sequim’s girls swim coach for seven seasons, follows Linda Moats who retired after leading Sequim’s boys team for 17 seasons and ushering it and the girls program in.
“Last season, Linda did a good job of skill building and conditioning,” Benitez said.
Returning are three of four swimmers on the state-qualifying 400 free relay team Alex Berikoff, Liam Payne and Jax Thaxton with Christian Goodrich graduating. In total there are 20 boys out for swimming, which doubles last season’s total.
Diver Mathew Craig has gone to the state meet three years in a row for Sequim with a fourth place finish last season. However, without a diving board in Sequim’s pool, he competes and practices with Port Angeles’ team.
Benitez said he’ll rejoin Sequim’s roster after districts.
Last season, Sequim lost all its dual matches because the team didn’t have enough swimmers to compete in all the events.
However, co-captains Berikoff and Payne said Benitez has advertised heavily at school to build interest in the program.
“We have a lot of new kids who can really improve,” Berikoff said.
Benitez said some new swimmers have some experience while others are new to swimming.
“We’re building a program,” she said. “It’s a new start.”
To help with the newcomers, Benitez is bringing in her girls’ swim team assistant Robert Pease to assist again.
“I’ve been selling it to the boys that they’ll be learning a lifelong skill,” she said. “And no one is going to make fun of you for not knowing how to swim or wearing a Speedo.”
So far, Benitez has a good core of varsity-level swimmers, she says including Thaxton, Sam Frymer, Murray Bingham, Kaleb Needoba and Sean Weber.
Berikoff says swimmers reaching districts this year is very plausible.
“We’ve started off the year a lot stronger,” he said.
“Everyone has their stroke and they seem to really want (to do well),” Payne said. “They’re feeling this is my place and I want to have it.”
While relays and individual events are still being set, Sequim opens its season with a meet on Dec. 7 at Klahowya and hosts Bremerton on Dec. 14 at the YMCA of Sequim.