MANISTIQUE - Their numbers may not be the most plentiful, but the Manistique Emeralds are ready to hit their home pool in today's swimming and diving opener against Marquette at 5.
Representing Manistique will be 15 girls and seven boys, with five of the eight seniors on the girls' team.
Girls' seniors include Morgan Kangas in 50 and 100-yard freestyle and 100 butterfly, Mandy Swayer (200-yard freestyle), Brandi Minor (500 freestyle) and Veronica Norbotten (diving) and Haleigh Chagnon.
"Morgan has a very pretty stroke and a good rhythm to her stroke," said coach Beth Aldrich. "We have people for the medley relay and butterfly and will be much deeper in those strokes. We have a number of sophomores who have yet to do the 50 fly. Although, I don't think we'll have as many open spots overall this year as in the past."
Promising underclassmen are sophomores Brittany Zellar (50 and 100 freestyle and 100 breaststroke) and Allison Halpin (distance).
"Brittany is pretty solid for us and Allison is probably our strongest swimmer," said Aldrich. "Allision may show up in the longer distances, although she hasn't been training for those."
Nov. 25 - Marquette.
Dec. 4 - at Westwood; Dec. 7 - at Westwood; Dec. 12 - at Marquette; Dec. 16 - at Rudyard; Dec. 17 - at Kingsford (Iron Mountain); Dec. 19 - Ishpeming-Negaunee; Dec. 28 - at Gladstone (Escanaba).
Jan. 2 - Kingsford; Jan. 8 - at Ishpeming-Negaunee; Jan. 11 - at Marquette; Jan. 15 - Gladstone; Jan. 22 - Rudyard and Sault Ste. Marie; Jan. 28 - Westwood.
Feb. 4 - at Sault Ste. Marie; Feb. 5 - at Negaunee; Feb. 7 - jayvees at Marquette; Feb. 15 - U.P. Finals at Marquette or Houghton.
Boys' leaders are seniors Robert Ayotte (butterfly and breaststroke), P.J. Birr (distance) and newcomer Ryan Ramey (sprints) and junior Todd Hronek (diving).
"P.J. has been dropping his times, and we'd like him to do other events in some of the smaller meets," said Aldrich. "Ryan has a lot of natural ability and wants to stay in shape for track."
Leading the underclasmen is freshman sprinter Caleb Swanson.
"Caleb is a very strong swimmer who has been turning in decent times in the 50 and 100 freestyle," said Aldrich. "He has all the strokes and is probably our fastest swimmer."
Once the high school season is over, Aldrich directs a middle school program for approximately six weeks which seems to helping the varsity team.
"We're getting swimmers who are ready for the first meet," she said. "I think the middle school program definitely pays off, and it gives us an idea of what's coming up."
Among other teams in the Upper Peninsula, Aldrich points to Marquette as the team to beat.
"Marquette has a lot of kids," she said. "They're always the team to beat. We don't see Kingsford, Hancock or Houghton very often. It's always kind of a surprise to see them. Gladstone had just a handful of swimmers last year. But the swimmers they had were strong. I know (junior) Josie Gardner is a very good swimmer for them."