Nevada Daily Mail
The inaugural season for the Nevada High School boy's swim team turned out to be far more eventful and prosperous than anyone expected, almost especially head coach Ryan Watts and the Tigers' only qualifier for the MSHSAA Boys Swimming and Diving Championships, Jesse Claypool.
"I'm pretty excited about it," Watts said. "I don't know that those were my aspirations coming into it as far as starting the year out, but we kind of exceeded where I thought we'd be."
As many fans and school officials did, both Watts and Claypool came into the year simply hoping to get a solid start to what both hope will be a long life for the program and seeing where things might go. Neither could have predicted that Claypool would go on to post a time in the 100-meter breaststroke that would be good enough to qualify for the state meet just two weeks into the season and then come back to beat that time and earn a medal at the Southwest Missouri Championships, but that's exactly what he did.
"To be honest with you, I didn't have any," Watts said of his preseason expectations. "It was just kind of, 'Let's see where this goes.'"
"Probably the same as his, didn't have many," Claypool added of his own expectations. "I've only been to club swimming, so I didn't know what to expect."
Claypool said his state qualifying time didn't come easy, but it was something he knew he could pull off, since he had already shown that he could in his club swimming days. As a freshman, Claypool posted a time that would have qualified for the state meet, but was unable to enter the competition because Nevada High School didn't have a team.
But that didn't deter Claypool from joining this year's team and repeating that feat when it could actually count. "Since then, I've dropped time, so I'm even a little bit under the cut at this point," Claypool said. "I got the cut on my club team my freshman year, but since we didn't have a high school team, I couldn't have gone to State."
Claypool will have his work cut out for him at this year's state meet since in order to qualify for the finals, he must finish in the top 16 times, but his qualifying time of 1 minute, 3.78 seconds is 23rd out of the 44 swimmers who will be competing in the same event. At face value, that statistic appears to put significant pressure on Claypool to shave off some time anywhere he can and get better, but that simply isn't the case. He will head into the preliminary heats with the mindset of simply enjoying the experience and learning for next year.
"There's a lot of really fast kids there. I'm just excited to be there to kind of scope out the meet for next year, see how I can do," he said. "If I can drop some time, that would be great, too."
"I know that a lot of times, you get an underclassman in the State mean early on, they come to it, you know, bright-eyed and scared to death," Watts added. "I agree with Jesse that, you know, we know that we're going to be back two years after this also."
Despite the fact that Claypool doesn't feel much pressure going into the state meet to perform at his peak and bring home a solid showing, that wasn't the case going into the year. Claypool said he spent the year trying to swim his best at every opportunity because he "owed it to the team," rather than in his days in club swimming when every performance was all about his individual results.
"I'm really excited about it. This is probably the most fun I've had swimming because in the club teams, it's not as much of a team feeling," Claypool said. "This is much more like a team than at clubs. At clubs, you're basically focused on how you do."
Watts echoed Claypool's excitement, but couldn't avoid letting a bit of disappointment into his mind. Not because he was in any way upset with the performances of any of his swimmers this season, but because the state meet being right around the corner means the season is coming to an end.
"I'm sad to see the season ending. We've had a lot of fun. The guys were great," he said. "It's kind of bittersweet to go to State because, you know, that's what you work for all year, but it will be kind of sad to know that's the end until next year."
The 2012 MSHSAA Boys Swimming and Diving Championships are scheduled for this Friday and Saturday, at the City of St. Peters Rec-Plex in St. Peters, Mo. Both Watts and Claypool will go into the meet with similarly low expectations, but Watts was quick to point out that neither of them really can have much in the way of expectations since they are both Swimming and Diving Championships rookies.
"He's never been there before, but neither have I," Watts said. "We're kind of learning this together going into it."