The Sunnyside Sharks summer swim team begins its quest for a second straight league championship tomorrow night (Tuesday) in Selah.
Sunnyside won top honors at the Mid-Valley Summer Swim League championship meet last August. It was the first league title for the Sharks since 1991.
But despite being the reigning champs, Sunnyside Coach Angie Poff said her club isn't putting any undue pressure on itself.
"I don't bring it up with the kids that we're the defending champs," said the second year coach. "Winning has never been my thing.
"For me, the competition is only part of the experience of being on the swim team. It's much more important, to me, that the kids have a positive experience," she said.
Although, Poff admits, the league title she helped the Sharks nail down last year in her first year as coach doesn't escape her thoughts entirely.
"Yes," she concedes, "It's in the back of my mind.
"When you think about it, it's kind of amazing how we finished the season last year."
Sunnyside entered the 2003 championship meet as a long shot. Selah, Prosser and Wapato were the decided favorites to grab the championship ring. But in the end, the Sharks edged Selah for top honors, piling up 511 points to the Dolphins' 504.
In addressing how she is going to approach the 2004 season, Poff said teamwork will be stressed more than individual accomplishments. More focus will be put on the team relays, she said, although she notes that the individual aspects of competition can't be ignored.
"A lot of what we'll be doing is working on improving," said Poff. "We'll do that by working on improving our stroke technique.
"Another area that will be important this season is having positive attitudes," said Poff.
Assisting Poff with the coaching duties this season will be Laura Matson and Anna Henry. Matson and Henry, both 18 years of age, will also compete for the Sharks this summer.
Matson has 13 years of swim team experience, said Poff, "...and she knows the ins and outs."
Poff said Henry has proven adept at working with the younger youths on the team. "Anna is a very positive, very optimistic type person. She's going to do well working with the younger kids," Poff explained.
Thus far this season, the Sharks have about 120 swimmers who have committed to being team members. Poff said that number is growing each day.
In looking at this year's team roster, Sunnyside has many of the youngsters back who helped carry the Sharks to the championship last season. Two of those returnees include Kathleen Dolan and Chelsea Durfey, high point age division winners at last year's championship meet.
Dolan, who as an 11-year-old won the girls 12 & under high point crown last season, will be the odds-on favorite to dominate the girls 12 & under action this summer. Durfey, 17, moves up from the girls 16 & under ranks to girls 18 & under this year.
Sunnyside will have an advantage over most of its opponents this year, as the Sharks will field six swimmers in girls 18 & under. Usually, most Mid-Valley Summer Swim League teams are thin in that age division. Joining Durfey at 18 & under will be Matson, Henry, Nicole Garza, Rebecca Razey and Emily Kresse.
The Sharks also appear strong in several other age groupings. The names to watch for as the season progresses include:
Girls 8 & U: Sydnee Hernandez and Lyndsee Anderson;
Girls 10 & U: Toni Castillo, Jordi Saenz and Alex Newhouse;
Girls 12 & U: Josslyn Ahumada, Alissa Martin and Kathleen Dolan;
Girls 14 & U: Molly Dolan, Megan Tyler, Janelle Mendoza and Katie Knee;
Girls 16 & U: Rachelle Durfey, Bailey Morris and Hannah Glockner;
Boys 8 & U: Tad Tyhuis and Ethan Partch;
Boys 10 & U: Tim Stiteler and Cristian Vargas;
Boys 12 & U: Edgar Vargas, Omar Vergara, Jacob Hollander and Brad Luff;
Boys 14 & U: Michael Bermudez, Alex Henry, Sam Bardell and A.J. Salazar;
Boys 16 & U: Jacob Kresse and David Knee;
Boys 18 & U: Riley Morris.
Poff said the Sharks also have several newcomers on this year's team. Two names that may rise to the top are Spencer Jaquish (12 & U) and Kevin Wilson (14 & U).