Swimming and Diving Preview: Flooded with youth, Oaks leads fresh-faced roster into ’13 season
When senior John Vigar takes to the WSU Natatorium pool during a practice swim this season, he will be outnumbered.
Vigar represents one of only five total seniors on both teams this year.
The cause for this imbalance in age is that a total of 35 freshmen and sophomores make up the Raiders 47-man roster.
Now, it will be first-year head coach Kyle Oaks’ task to lead his fledgling group into Wright State’s first meet against Butler, Evansville and St. Louis in Fishers, Ind. Sunday.
But instead of viewing his swimmers’ ages as an undesirable aspect of the cyclical recruiting process in college athletics, Oaks, instead, sees it as a chance to start anew and build from the ground up.
“I think the benefit is, is that they are awfully fun to coach. They have a lot of energy and they are pretty moldable,” Oaks said. “When you have an influx of new people, it kind of brings you back to ground zero and you’re like, ‘oh yeah, maybe we need to start with these basic [concepts] again.’”
Vigar has already seen how his younger teammates can improve the Raiders chances of higher placements in future meets.
“I think the men’s side is going to be really good. We have a bunch of freshmen this year that seem promising. We were lacking last year in our butterfly and freestyle events and we already have two freshmen that have put up good times in our inter-squad meet.”
Oaks admitted coaching a sport such as swimming can be difficult, especially when attempting to juggle individual and team goals.
He should know. As a former sprint freestyle swimmer for the College of Wooster in Ohio, Oaks, 27, brings his knowledge and experience to WSU, just five years removed from graduation.
“We talk a lot about…when we compete, we compete against ourselves,” Oaks said. “When we get on the block, and there are six swimmers across the pool, three of them are from an opposing team and the other three are from the same team. Not all of them can get first place. So we try to talk a lot about, ‘well, really, what is our goal as a group of athletes?’”
When asked if both teams had a unified identity, sophomore Kayla Fearrin said the Raiders have not solidified an identity yet, but one will eventually emerge.
“I think it’s a little too early to tell right now,” Fearrin said. “I think once the meets start, our identity will start to form.”
What type of identity, exactly?
“A big family that works together and goes through [the season] as a team.”