|By Allison Goldsmith
I&M Sports Editor
Relying on depth and flexibility, the Nantucket boys swimming and diving team is building toward another strong finish this season. The Whalers welcome back a core of experienced athletes while suiting up a new class of swimmers for a fresh campaign.
Last season in a rebuilding year the Whalers finished at 4-3 overall, but placed second at the Bay Colony Conference Championship meet on a final-event stunner to finish over Nauset and Sharon last February.
Nantucket graduated only one senior from last year’s squad, captain Connor Wallace, who was the Whalers’ only representative at the sectional and state championship meets last winter.
Without the benefit of their main point recipient, the Whalers will look to the rest of the squad that earned the second place nod last winter with valuable point finishes.
“This year it will be more difficult. We will rely on the depth of the team rather than a top performer. We have to look for the second, third, fourth and fifth place finishes,” head coach Jim Pignato said.
The Whalers welcome 12 new swimmers to this year’s team, including three former divers and two freshman. The 2004 squad will be represented by five seniors, eight juniors, ten sophomores and two freshmen.
“A lot of depth gives me a lot to work with and gives me flexibility. We are still in a rebuilding phase like last year. We will see the same type of performance as last year. We are not going to be 9-0 but we have the potential to place high at the conference meet,” Pignato said.
Senior co-captains Henry Butler and Tim Kuratek will lead this year’s team. Butler will return to the 500-yard freestyle and 200-yard freestyle distance events, while Kuratek will anchor the 50-yard freestyle sprint and the 100-yard breaststroke.
Also returning this season is sophomore Harrison O’Rourke, who should compete in the 200-yard individual medley and 100-butterfly events, Tucker Harvey, who placed third in the 100-yard backstroke at the championship meet and Caleb Mitchell, who finished eighth in the 100-yard breaststroke at the same meet.
Look for freshmen Will Martin and Jeremy Schneider to contribute in their first year on the squad.
Nick Valero returns to the Whalers after a year away, as the boys’ only diver this season. Valero placed eighth overall in the south sectional championships and ninth overall in the Division II state championships as a freshman two years ago.
In the first two weeks of practice, coach Pignato has been working on stroke technique and mechanics with some of the newer swimmers, while increasing the yardage for the returning team members.
The boys’ squad will compete in the nine-meet Bay Colony Conference schedule against Barnstable, Oliver Ames, Scituate, Nauset, Taunton, North Attleboro, Middleboro, Sharon and Coyle Cassidy, with one non-league meet against Sandwich.
The Whalers will build up endurance for the championship meet in mid-February. Select swimmers based on qualifying times will be invited to sectional and state championship meets at the end of the season.
Following the annual Relay Carnival on Saturday, Nantucket will open the regular season against a strong Barnstable team at home this Tuesday. The Whalers did not face Barnstable in head-to-head competition last season due to weather and travel restraints.