Unlike meets during their 2020-21 season, Sequim’s Wolves will face flesh-and-blood opponents this fall.
“You can’t manufacture that,” said Britt Hemphill, who takes the reigns as head coach after Sarah Thorson — the Wolves coach for the past two years — went on leave.
Thorson asked Hemphill, a longtime coach of Port Angeles High’s boys and girls programs who now coaches Sequim’s boys program, earlier this year.
“It caught me by surprise,” said Hemphill, who said he is working with Thorson and assistant Cherise Feser to manage the team while keeping some prior commitments he made for the fall.
The Wolves themselves look to adjust to a new coach with a 19-members roster that features eight seniors with plenty of experience.
“That’s a good number,” Hemphill said of his 12th-grade crew, led by captains Petra Bernsten, Hi’ilei Robinson and Lauren Sundin.
Pacing the Wolves is four-year competitor Mia Coffman, who in 2019 raced to a pair of state berths (ninth in 500 free, 15th in 200 free) as a sophomore, and helped Sequim’s 400 free relay team also earn a state berth, placing 16th.
Last season, racing in virtual meets, Coffman posted the Olympic League’s best 500 freestyle mark (5:49.33) and fourth-best 200 freestyle time (2:11.4). Sundin had a pair of league top-10 marks, in the 100 free (eighth, 1:07.54) and 100 butterfly (10th, 1:18.12), as did Robinson, in the 50 free (sixth, 28.92) and 100 free (10th, 1:08.35).
Senior Madeline Pickens and junior Julia Jeffers, who each earned top-10 league finishes last season, are back in the fold as well.
Sequim also sees a quartet of freshmen to help bolster the lineup.
No stranger to coaching girls programs, Hemphill oversaw PA’s Roughriders for nine years and coached a 40-member team in Idaho.
“It’s been a transition for them … and add COVID to that,” he said last week.
He said he expects Coffman and a relay to have a shot at state berths but beyond that, it’s unknown as the season nears its start.
Sequim opens with a home meet against Bainbridge on Sept. 9, with home meets starting at 3 p.m. at the YMCA of Sequim. After a pair of away dates (Sept. 16 at Bremerton, Sept. 21 at Klahowya), the Wolves host North Kitsap on Sept. 23, East Jefferson on Oct. 5 and rival Port Angeles on Oct. 7.