Pats relying on sizable depth

Photo by Jimmy Lafakis/The Herald
Heritage Hills senior Garrett Nix swims during a recent practice in Lincoln City.

By JIMMY LAFAKIS
jlafakis@dcherald.com

LINCOLN CITY — Building the foundation of a successful athletic program is no small feat, but Heritage Hills head coach Gary Ayer has concocted a winning formula in the pool. As the Patriots prepared for the new campaign, Ayer combined his past knowledge with a practical future outlook.

“We’ve got some good numbers coming back again, which I’m really excited about,” he said. “We’ve got some swimmers that I had hoped came out last year as freshmen. They didn’t, but they’re out this year. They might be a little bit behind of where I hoped they would be, but we’ve got good numbers. We can really build on what we’ve got.”

In addition to the young talent, the boys team features a host of upperclassmen. Seniors Josh Halvorson, Garrett Nix and Elliott Buechlein are the elder statesmen. Juniors Kyan Bell, Timothy Eubank and Landyn Taylor bring additional experience to the group.

As he reflected on the boys program’s development, Ayer underscored a period of significant improvement within the last four-to-six years. The progression has helped the Pats comprehend the task at hand.

“What we started back then kind of sets the trend,” Ayer said. “It sets the bar pretty high. These guys know what’s expected. It’s that — there’s a lot of pride there with what this program has done and what we can do.”

Because the girls side is also replete with depth, the Pats will have the opportunity to show their versatility. Juniors Lily Gogel and Jada Banks join seniors Rachel Martin and Elizabeth Williams in a solid upperclassmen core. Heritage Hills features 16 freshmen and sophomores on the girls team.

According to Ayer, the lineup remains flexible. Tactical adjustments could happen throughout the next month, while more defined roles will likely emerge after Christmas break.

“We can actually have some good competition for spots,” Ayer said. “The kids are up to it. They want to swim, so they’re going to be working in practice to try to secure those spots.”

As the student-athletes search for comfort in the water, they develop elevated levels of conditioning and fitness. Ayer holds those benefits in high regard.

“A lot of people find their niche,” he said. “To me, it’s a lifelong sport. You won’t be able to play soccer all your life. You won’t be able to play football all your life. You won't be able to play baseball all your life. This is something that you can do. I’ve done triathlons in the past, and I’ve seen 80-year-olds doing triathlons. Swimming, running and even biking are lifelong sports. That’s something that you can stick with.”

The girls open their season at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Mount Vernon Invite. The Mount Vernon athletic department confirmed to The Herald on Tuesday afternoon that no fans will be allowed at the event.

“There’s some things that we’ve done in the past that we’re not going to be able to do this year,” Ayer said. “We’ve got to adapt, figure things out and go forward.”




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