Numbers favor the Stars as BNL dives into 2023-24 campaign

BNL’s Madeleine King, Katarina Kwakye, Francesca Orozco and Evija Buike are upperclassmen who will be leaders of a young roster for the 2023-24 girls swimming season.

By Justin Sokeland

BEDFORD – Adam Young has more work to do, and he’s thrilled about that.

Just two years again, Bedford North Lawrence’s program included a single-digit number of swimmers, and it’s impossible to compete for dual-meet wins, or sectional team titles, with so few in the water. Now, in a short time span, more than double the number of athletes are penciled onto the preseason program as the Stars prepare for the 2023-24 campaign.

Only two of the 17 on the roster, as BNL started the start of official practice sessions on Monday afternoon, are seniors. An even dozen are freshmen and sophomores, so the Stars will have a serious youth movement.

“We’ve been beaten by numbers on a few occasions the last couple of years, without the depth, even through we had some quality swimmers,” Young said. “So I’m excited to have a full girls lineup. I can’t wait to see what everybody does.

“If they want to be successful, it’s a numbers game. We had to recruit some kids (from other sports) to bump the roster.”

While BNL will not have the individual firepower of Emma Gabhart (a sectional champion and state finalist) to produce points, it will have the necessary depth to compete. Young expects junior Madeleine “Cookie” King to be a factor in the butterfly, and sophomore Ava Lipp to make a huge splash in the backstroke. They are the top two returning scorers.

BNL junior Cookie King has experience in the butterfly.

“They should vie to go to the state meet,” Young said.

BNL’s senior class (Bridget Keen and newcomer Evija Buike) have only one year of experience between them, so Young will count on immediate contributions from a talented freshman class that includes Amelia Manke (the younger sister of two former BNL boys standouts), Emma Heinzman, Jane Bingham and diver Willow Bailey.

“We’re picking up some freshmen that will definitely do well,” Young said. “We have to sort out what we have. We have a lot of talented new swimmers. They have to learn some things, but they’re ahead of the curve.

“For them, it’s just being a freshman on a team, getting used to practice six days a week. Once they get through that transition, they should gel.”

BNL will open the campaign at home against Edgewood on Nov. 21.