Rangers growing, bonding together

Photo by Jimmy Lafakis/The Herald
Forest Park sophomore Leo Alvis swims a butterfly stroke during a recent practice at Southridge High School.


FERDINAND — Five years ago, Rachel Berg coached one student-athlete in the Forest Park swimming program. As the new swim seasons draw near, the Rangers’ official roster features 10 boys and six girls.

“That’s all them,” Berg said. “Me recruiting is not the same as them getting their friends to swim.”

According to Berg, several Forest Park freshmen have started their high school careers with eager attitudes. Freshman Lauren Klem will compete for the girls, while fellow freshmen Aaron Beckman, Abe Berg, Ashton Cole, Carter Fleck, Luke Hagedorn, Sam Kluesner and Ethan Weyer will participate for the boys.

Berg praised the young swimmers for their collective enthusiasm and desire.

“For them to come and try, it says a lot for them,” she said. “They’re all doing awesome, but they do realize how tough of a sport it is. It’s not something where you can just get in the pool and swim a 500.”

Sophomores Leo Alvis and Eli Berg bring valuable experience to the group. Ben Kluesner, the Rangers’ lone senior, has set a positive example for his younger teammates in past years.

Rachel Berg expects him to lead once again.

“Ben is strong,” she said. “He can be right up there as far as competing with the best. At sectionals, we expect him to be in those final heats in his events.”

The girls side features sophomores Kenzie Schulz and Grace Schuetter. Juniors Philicity Collignon, Grace Wendholt and Claire Eckert are key fixtures in the pool.

Last season, Collignon specialized in distance events. Although the Rangers’ summer workouts were cut short, she developed her skills in the abbreviated time frame.

“She’s gotten so much stronger,” Berg said. “She swam over the summer and really increased her endurance. I think she’ll bring a lot to the team this year.”

Camaraderie takes precedence for the Rangers, who are accustomed to supporting each other in sporting events.

“They do feed off of each other,” Berg said. “We have a lot of cross-country runners that swim. They’re used to those two being together. I think they feed off of each other — it’s an important aspect of the sport.”

Throughout the years, the Rangers have learned to make the most of what they have. Forest Park’s practices are held at Southridge’s pool, and the student-athletes have expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to compete.

“I think they are really happy to be able to do this,” Berg said. “Of course, we don’t have a pool. We don’t have a facility. We’re thankful for Southridge and the (YMCA).”

During practices, the Rangers have honed their underwater techniques. Additional attention to detail has helped the squads make the most of their preparation.

“This is such a crazy year,” Berg said. “Each meet, we’re going to take it as the only meet we’re swimming. We’ve just got to do our best at each meet.”

The boys and girls teams open the season at 6:30 p.m. on Monday at South Spencer.

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