Raiders light on numbers, big on bonds

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Raul Rodriguez is part of a Southridge swim team where a lack of numbers doesn’t drown the team’s buoyant attitude. The Raiders’ five-man crew has won just one dual meet in the last two seasons but spirits remain high entering this weekend’s sectional at Jasper.

By JOE JASINSKI
Herald Sports Writer

It’s hard not to wonder: Did Christian Motteler know what antics would ensue once football season ended?

Did he know about Raul Rodriguez’s peculiar “warm-up” style? Or about Trent Dischinger’s secret stroke? Or could he predict what Luke Siddons had schemed for senior night? And more importantly, if Motteler makes his bird noise while swimming, but no one else is there to here it, does he make the sound at all?

For a short time in late fall, Motteler was the only boy churning out laps at the Southridge pool. The freshman, a year-round swimmer, had decided to end his football season early to focus on the pool. Meanwhile, every other Raider swimmer — all four of them — stayed at the football field until Southridge’s regional run came to an end in mid-November.

Once they did return to the pool, well, things got interesting.

It’s a group that’s tallied one outright victory — a 55-52 edging of Vincennes Lincoln on Jan. 13 — over the past two seasons. But neither the record, nor the team’s size in numbers, has much bearing on morale.

When together, the five operate as a ragtag ensemble of characters who, if nothing else, answer one question for Raider coach Dick Taylor every day.

“You can have fun in swimming,” says Taylor, whose team prepares for the sectional at Jasper, which begins with today’s preliminary heats for Saturday’s finals. “But it’s hard because the activity, the strokes, the practices are hard. You can certainly have all the fun you want, but you know going in that you’re going to be challenged physically. As long as you’re willing to accept that, you can have as much fun as you want.”

The Raiders have tested the limits.

Orchestrating the mayhem is usually Siddons, the team’s lone senior who openly offers the disclaimer to teammates, “If you want to be good at swimming, don’t listen to me.”

It’s a bit of a facade, considering he managed a top-10 finish in the 50-yard freestyle at last year’s sectional. But at the same time, Siddons is far from dour. And if there were ever a night to prove it, he couldn’t imagine any as good as senior night.

Though the Raider boys team doesn’t have any divers, Siddons filled the void in Southridge’s meet against Northeast Dubois on Feb. 3. Encouraged by his compadres, the senior performed a rarity at the high school level: the belly flop.

“They told me to do it. So I was like, ”˜All right,’” said a nonchalant Siddons, who garnered 10s across the board for the maneuver.

With such a motivating leader, it’s easy to understand why Dischinger so willingly joined the team after Siddons recruited him this fall.

“Trent: by far the worst swimmer on the team,” Siddons says with affection. “But he’s come a long way.”

“Yeah, at least he can swim,” Rodriguez adds.

OK, so it’s been a learning experience for Dischinger, the team’s only junior. He had Taylor Miles of the girls team teach him how to dive from the starting block at the beginning of the season. He still hasn’t figured out how to ensure his goggles stay on during his sprint races. But the first-year swimmer also possesses a trump card.

“The one thing that he can beat me in is doggy paddle,” Siddons concedes.

“Oh, I beat him in the doggy paddle evvvvery single time,” Dischinger ensures.

“You even beat me,” Motteler admits.

That’s something few have been able to say about Motteler, the freshman who won the 200 individual medley and finished second in the 100 breaststroke at the PAC meet despite being sick.

Finally, a round-the-clock serious swimmer. Eh, not all the time.

“Christian is one of the weirder cases. He’s easily the best of all of us, that’s not a question. I think we can all agree on that,” says freshman Sam White, who looks around Taylor’s office to see his teammates nodding in agreement. “But whenever there’s just a few people at practice, like on Saturdays, he’s definitely not the same hard-working person he always is.”

“You ever go to basketball games?” Motteler asks. “You ever hear the guy who’s making noises during free throws? That’s me.”

The bird sounds have become one of Motteler’s staples. Sure, it may have gotten him kicked out of the pool by his coach on one occasion. And he may have been forced to swim with a sock in his mouth one day when he wouldn’t stop talking. But other than that, he’s pretty normal … other than the fact that he’s eaten food from the garbage a time or two.

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” Dischinger states in support.

“Or supper,” Rodriguez amends.

Rodriguez has mastered daily conditioning.

“Raul is a practice freak,” White claims.

“Yeah, he probably skips the most practices,” Siddons tosses in.

The team’s sophomore representative, Rodriguez serves as the one setting record times during warm-up laps at practice. Coach sees him giving it his all, “then he stops looking,” Rodriguez explains with a mischievous grin.

Genius.

With five swimmers, it’s nearly impossible to collar wins as a team. But “they stuck together,” Taylor commends. “They were interested in being a team and they made sure, despite their antics, they always showed up.”

Taylor then notices the bunch, swimming in the lane farthest from where he stands.

“Stuff like that,” he says with a grin and finger pointed.

There paddle a school of five boys, talking and laughing, not a care in the world.

Contact Joe Jasinski




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