After dry dock, Stars finally make a splash for 2020-21 season

BNL senior Ursula Patton, a state finalist last year in the 500-yard freestyle, and the Stars finally returned to the water on Monday afternoon.

By Justin Sokeland

BEDFORD – After seven months in dry dock, Bedford North Lawrence swimmers finally got wet. Chlorine never smelled so good.

Sidelined on dry land during the current COVID-19 epidemic, the Stars hit the water – for the first time since March – during the first official practice session for the 2020-21 campaign on Monday afternoon. With a new head coach, with muscle memory at a low point, BNL has a lot of work ahead.

Adam Young, a former assistant at BNL and three other schools, takes over the program, succeeding Terry Tlustek. He welcomed a large roster (17 athletes, including three divers) to the opening-day workouts. Rest assured, most were going home a little sore following the dry summer.

Adam Young

Bedford’s city pool, normally a daily hangout and the host of the popular club team, was empty. BNL’s pool was just recently filled for the coming seasons.

“There’s a lot of unknown,” Young said. “We’ve not swam since March, there’s been no swimming, so it will be interesting to see if we can get back into shape and make up for the lost time. It can be done. But it will be difficult.

“That’s puts us behind some of our rivals. It makes the job all the more difficult.”

Young’s first priority will be maintaining the program quality. Tlustek guided the Stars for eight years, and there’s been little turnover at the helm during the last 25 years. Young has the resume after swimming at Edgewood and Vincennes University, working as an assistant at Vincennes Lincoln, Edgewood and Bloomington North, coaching the LCA summer club team and working under Tlustek for two years.

“A little bit of pressure, but it’s more of an honor to be the steward of a great swimming tradition,” Young said. “BNL swimming has a real tradition of success. We want to take it to the next level, if we can.”

BNL will build around senior star Ursula Patton, a sectional champion and state finalist in the 500-yard freestyle. She set a school record of 5:22.67 in that event, and she’ll be asked to shoulder a huge load once she gets back into competition shape.

“Probably pretty rusty,” said Patton, who ran, took yoga and did workout videos at home during her shutdown. “I’m hoping it won’t be too hard to get back into things. I’m hoping it won’t be as noticeable. Hopefully I can jump back in and be in a similar spot as most seasons.

“Once I start, I hope I won’t be out of breath quickly.”

Patton wants to qualify for the state in a second event and push some teammates toward relay success.

BNL’s Shelby Slaughter earned valuable points as a freshmen last year.

“Ursula is a workhorse, and I would still expect her to have a breakout year,” Young said. “She wants some more records on the board before she goes. And we need to her to take a leadership role.“

BNL will have veteran depth with junior Cami Breedlove, sophomore Shelby Slaughter, sophomore Bella Held and senior Kaitlyn Hackney. Newcomers like sophomore Emma Gabhart and freshmen Clover Todd will also make an immediate impact.

“We’ll see who’s going to put the chips on the table,” Young said. “Everybody will carry a little of the load, even the brand-new folks.

“Hackney has the numbers, and she’s a senior. She can step up and provide some leadership, in and out of the water. Cami is due for a big step forward. Shelby really turned it on last year so I would expect to see big things from her.”

Ashley Starks, a former gymnast, will head the diving contingent for assistant coach Tyler Harrison. “I’m more interested to see what our divers do,” Young said.

BNL is set to start the campaign on Nov. 24 at Edgewood.