The back-to-back AVCTL-I champion Derby boys swim team is ready to take to the water once again to defend their titles. Head coach Jimmy Adams is excited as well but he’s preaching caution as the world that his team is swimming in is much different than it has been the past two years.
“I think (defending our title) is something that’s in the back of their minds but it just seems really far away right now,” Adams said. “It’s exciting to see if we can do it again but there’s a long way to go before we get to Feb. 14.”
Last spring, Adams saw his talented girls’ swim team cut down and robbed of a season due to school closure thanks to COVID-19 and the echoes of that have stayed with him through the cross country season this fall, where he’s the head coach, and into the winter sports season.
“We’ve told the boys that there are going to be changes that they’re not going to like but they’re going to have to get used to it because at least we’re still having a season,” Adams said. “We get a chance to defend our title so that’s exciting. Our big message to the boys is that we need to be thankful and keep moving forward.”
Derby loses key senior Jordan Weve to graduation but junior Will McCabe is back for Derby after a monster sophomore campaign which saw him take first in the 100 and second in the 200 at league while swimming second-leg of the league-champ 200-meter relay.
“He had an insane season last year as a sophomore,” Adams said. “That kid works so hard. He’s an animal.”
McCabe is joined by seniors Trent Voth and Magnus Moeder. Voth finished third in the 200 IM and contributed to two other top-five relay finishes while Moeder finished top-five in four different races (including two relays).
Lastly, Peyton Lake rounds out the four returning league performers from last season and so far he has made a real impression on Adams.
“He looks really good in the pool right now and he has all of the strokes ready,” Adams said. “He’ll be able to do whatever we need.”
Players competing for varsity time in addition to those four this season include Simon Rocco, Dominic Espinoza and Brenden Swindle.
Some changes are imminent due to the pandemic, the biggest being that for the foreseeable future spectators will not be allowed to attend any of the meets.
“We won’t have spectators, which will be big,” Adams said. “The boys may not realize it right now but that’s something that they’ll miss not having that atmosphere of people cheering during relays. Fans add an extra oomph.”
In addition, meets will also be smaller, consisting of just four teams. The sized-down meets will limit the variety of swimmers that the Panthers will face.
Swimmers in the state are also in danger of possibly losing relays this season due to social distancing issues.
“We don’t know about relays yet either,” Adams said. “There’s been talking of taking those out which would be terrible for the boys. That’s how we get a lot of the guys in the pool. Normally before a relay, there are a million people behind the block and it’s chaos and that’s not something that’s going to be able to happen this year. Changing that is going to change a lot of boys’ pre-race rituals that they’ve been doing a certain way for the past three seasons. We’re going to try to mimic the changes in practice the best that we can.”
Adams knows that, for now, none of that is worth dwelling on because they can’t change it. All they can do is try to get better.
“That’s how it’s been this whole school year,” Adams said. “When something pops up, we’ll have to figure it out. In sports, it’s tough to take it day-by-day when you don’t know if you’re going to have a season. We’re not guaranteed anything. It’s stressful but we’re going to get through it.”