Pats loaded with talent in pool

Photo by Hunter Tickel/The Herald
Heritage Hills senior caption Lily Gogel paces the Patriots heading into the 2021-22 season. The Pats are coming off third-place finishes in the Pocket Athletic Conference and Jasper sectional.


LINCOLN CITY — The bar is lofty for Heritage Hills swimming, particularly the girls squad.

That's because the girls team had bronze finishes in last year's Jasper sectional and Pocket Athletic Conference.

"The girls have been working really well," Heritage Hills coach Gary Ayer said. "We've got a really solid core from last year's team. I graduated two seniors. I've got pretty much everybody back. We feel like we had a successful year last year."

Senior captains Jada Banks and Lily Gogel have the potential to stretch for even greater heights.

"Our other senior, Jada (Banks), will probably move on to state this year, hopefully," Gogel said."

Gogel, who will swim the 100 backstroke and either 50 or 100 freestyle, is coming off of a campaign where she finished in the top eight in the sectional meet for both races.

"I think it's my technique," Gogel said. "Personally for me with backstroke, I get to breathe the whole time. That's what I enjoy about that. With the 100 free, it's a quick time in the pool then you are out."

No swimmer or diver finished in the top six at sectionals, but depth was on display with 10 top-eight spots amongst individuals.

"It goes to them working," Ayer said. "We set some pretty lofty goals at the beginning of the year. They put the work in. They wanted to do those things. We were really happy with the performance and where we finished at (the) sectional."

Uninterrupted time in the pool could spur this mix to make another leap.

"Last year, we grew a lot in numbers," Gogel said. "That really helped us a lot, but then we had COVID so a week out of the pool is a long time. This year, we're looking forward to more successes in meets and higher placement in PAC and sectionals because we are going to have that constant training time."

There's a surplus of divers in this contingent, with five taking their spot on the board. There are freshmen Paige Hart and Molly Meyer, sophomore Sadie Peters, who finished 10th in sectionals last year, sophomore Lilly Hopster is back and in the fold is Swedish foreign exchange student Olivia Stjernstrom, a junior.

"I feel like to keep improving, you got to have those girls, not just the girls, but the guys, too if you're fortunate enough to have that many, fighting for those spots," Ayer said. "It's just going to make everyone better."

The two positions ahead of the Patriots were Jasper in first and Tell City. Those are programs that Heritage Hills will target as they measure their success.

"Probably Jasper, seeing how close we can get to Jasper points-wise this year," Gogel said. "Also Tell City, they grew a lot in numbers that past couple of years. They are really competitive with us, as well."

The best relay team from last year finished fourth in the 400. This year, Ayer will have a decision to make.

"We've been talking with the girls with what we want to do, and that might change throughout the year (based) on what we see," Ayer said. "I feel like with the group that I've got, I can put together one really good relay, but which relay is it going to be?"

He said the goal is to not sacrifice the caliber of other relays unless one has a shot at making a run at state.

The girls open their campaign against Mt. Vernon on Nov. 20, while the boys team jump starts the year against Boonville on Nov. 23.

Ayer said the boys squad is young after having big numbers last year.

The biggest gaping hole will be Joshua Halvorson as he broke the school mark in the 200 free.

The key cogs returning to compete are senior Timothy Eubank, who will be in the 200 free, fellow Kyan Bell and sophomore Drew Foertsch.

Ayer said several freshmen are pouring into the program, which consist of Bronson Pund, Donnie Kline, Nolan Roedel, Levi Latherly and Logan Guthrie.

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