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Local teams ready to hit the pool

LAPLACE — Thursday night begins anew the River Parish Swim league season, with multi-time defending league champion LARAYO taking the pool against LaVacherie in its home opener and Riverlands traveling to face Sun Villa.

Last season finished on a high note for all of St. John the Baptist Parish’s local teams, as LARAYO, Riverlands and Piranha Swim Team (Belle Terre-based) finished first, second and third respectively at the league’s annual Invitational meet.

This season, the landscape will be different, with PST separating from league competition to face an independent schedule.

But the one constant will be the favorite: LARAYO’s string of titles has run for more than a decade, and it hasn’t lost a meet over the past 10 seasons.

LARAYO coach Michelle Jensen says the club’s roster size should roughly mirror what it was a year ago, and the longtime Barracudas coach is excited about the potential of some of her youngest swimmers.

“We have a lot of new youngsters,” Jensen said. “I’d say it’s more than last year. They’re not intimidated by the water. The weather’s been good, especially in the mornings. We’ve had very good practice participation. Our 8 and unders and 6 and unders typically do very well, and this year I think the same will be true.”

Jensen said of that youngest group are many “older” 6-year-olds, some of whom came close to earning high-point honors.

She said a big factor in early season meets will be scheduling between sports, with many swimmers on the roster of both LARAYO and their opposition playing baseball, softball and other summer activities.

“Sometimes, it comes down to who shows up on a given night,”
Jensen said. “On any night, you could face someone’s best, or they could have to change some things around.”

Riverlands finished fourth in the regular season a year ago, but leapt up to second for the season-ending invitational meet, the hosting Stingrays ending on a strong note in their home pool.

Stingrays coach Lindsey Vicknair said her swimmers are primed to build on that success and, most importantly, create some memorable and enjoyable times with their teammates.

“We are thrilled to be beginning the summer swim season,” Vicknair said. “Our goal is for our swimmers to be faster and have better stroke techniques than they did when we began in early May, and we are already seeing tremendous improvements in practice, both in swim performance and sportsmanship.

“This is summer league swimming, it’s about fun and friendships and ending better than you were when you started. We finished second in the invitational last summer, and we are working towards a strong finish this year as well.”

PIRANHAS IN NEW SURROUNDINGS — Piranha Swim Team has two meets against an independent swim schedule, and PST coach Blaine Tatje said the feedback has been positive so far.

“It’s really been an awesome, positive experience,” Tatje said. “We had some swimmers and parents who had a little trepidation about being out on our own this year, but they say they’re really enjoying it now.”

Last season, PST finished third in the River Parish Swim League regular season and in the Invitational after a long drought of success and a string of finishes in the league’s bottom tier.

This season, while it has fallen in both of its meets, its competitive showings against top competition indicates the team’s growth has continued.

“Pelican Point and Cypress Lake are both top-ranked teams in their leagues,” Tatje said.

“Looking back at results, the 11-12 and 13-14 age groups have really performed well. We’ve actually exceeded our own expectations and we couldn’t be any happier about that outcome.”