It's safe to say competitive swimming has taken off in recent years at Chickasha High School, and it's resulted in one of the biggest teams to date.
Twenty students have decided to swim for the Fightin' Chicks this season, the largest bunch that head coach Terri Gallaway has had in her 10-year tenure. It's provided for a relatively young team that appears eager to learn more about the winter sport.
"I started with six ten years ago, so it is growing," Gallaway said. "There are five seniors, but three of them have never swam before. No juniors, a lot of freshmen and sophomores, so it's a young group."
Among that young group is sophomore Dale Courtney, who made it to state with the 200-meter freestyle relay team in 2012 in his first year swimming. An full year of swimming under his belt -- mostly with Chesapeake Swim Club -- has Courtney and coach Gallaway expectant of even better things this year.
"I feel like I've learned a lot, not just with high school, but also in Chesapeake," Courtney said. "I've learned more technique, more about conditioning, more skills all around, and more confidence."
The young swimmers in general have Gallaway excited for the future of the sport in Chickasha, who often competes with teams closer to the city who have more resources.
"My leadership really comes out of my sophomore class," Gallaway said. "I've got some strong seniors, but I'm looking for my sophomores to turn into a big leadership group."
But leaders must learn, and there are plenty of senior examples for both the boys and girls. Kayle Nye and Andrew Ross lead the way for the senior boys. Both members of the 200-meter relay team that went to state last year, Nye says the consistency gives swimmers a chance to perfect the small stuff.
"This year, our relay is the same as last year, so we basically know how fast we need to be and where we need to be," Nye said. "Since we've swam with each other, we can tune the diving, and minor details we can use to be faster."
Tomorrow the team heads to Harrah for their first meet of the season. New rules this year mandate the top eight swimmers from a regional tournament are guaranteed a place in state. With this new goal in mind, Ross says the team is confident of returning to state, or going one better.
"When we went to state, there was 19 teams," Ross said. "The format this year is 24. We were in the top 20 last year, so there's a good chance we'll be in the top 24.
That's what we're focussing on."