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River Parish Swim League set to go Monday

By RYAN ARENA
L’Observateur

By RYAN ARENA

L’Observateur

LAPLACE – The River Parish Swim League is set to begin competition this Monday night, with a pair of showcase matchups right off the bat in LaPlace.

Neighborhood rivals Riverlands and Belle Terre will square off at Riverlands while defending league champion LARAYO opens competition by hosting perennial top contender LaVacherie. Both meets are set to begin at 6:30 p.m.

LARAYO and Riverlands finished first and second respectively a year ago, and according to their coaches, each squad is primed to build on that success.

They’ll get a chance to measure themselves against one another early, as Riverlands will host LARAYO on the season’s second night of competition Thursday.

But Monday night comes first, and neither team appears likely to look past their first foe.

The Riverlands and Belle Terre series always yields a special night, said Riverlands coach Lindsey Vicknair.

“The kids on each team have a lot of fun,” said Vicknair. “A lot of them know each other, go to school together … that’s true of every team in the league to a degree, but you see a lot more of it with these clubs as close as we are.

“They’re hanging out with each other and intermingling. You’ll have kids cheering on not just teammates, but their close friends on the other side as well. It’s always a really fun, positive atmosphere.”

Vicknair’s Stingrays finished as runner-up in both the regular season standings and in the Swim League Invitational last season, and she believes her team can continue its success.

“We’ve had a couple of rain delays, so we haven’t had as much work in the pool as we’d maybe like,” said Vicknair. “But I think we look good. I’m excited to see how we compare to last year … I do think we’ll be pretty strong across all of our age groups. We have good balance.

“Starting with Belle Terre and then LARAYO, we get both of our local rivals off the bat. So there’s a lot of excitement.”

LARAYO, of course, stands as a stern test for anyone. The Barracudas have dominated the league, boasting over a decade’s worth of consecutive championships after sweeping the regular season and invitational championships a season ago.

This year’s club won’t have to wait long to see how it measures up against the Barracuda clubs of the past. With meets against LaVacherie and Riverlands, teams that each boast finishes as league runner  up within the past two seasons, LARAYO coach Michelle Jensen hopes to see her team hit the ground running.

“We get to start off with two of our biggest meets of the season,” said Jensen. “Right now I think (preparation) is going well.”

This season’s start comes a bit later than usual. Last season saw the swim league kick off on June 4, beginning a week earlier than the 2013 edition.

“Even with the extra time, as a coach you always feel a little rushed,” said Jensen. “I think the late start helps.

“Schools let out later than usual, and with kids playing ball, going to school and (having swim practice) on top of that, it would have been difficult.”

Jensen said she expects her veterans to lead the way on this team, noting the 15 through 18 year old boys and girls age groups as a particular strength of this year’s team.

“I have a lot of senior swimmers who have done this since they were four and five. A lot of them are helping the younger swimmers and building camaraderie. They’ve been leaders.”

While no coach considers an opening day performance as a completely finished product, seeing a team for the first time in live action is always a special event.

“The best part, for me, is seeing how far everyone has come from a couple of weeks ago, to see how much stronger they get,” said Jensen.

“It’s very satisfying. But at the same time, you also know there’s still work to do.”