By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – Apex predators have no natural enemies to fear. Bedford North Lawrence earned that status last season with a sectional championship that included eight event victories. The Stars were sharks in the pool.
Funny thing about certain kinds of sharks: they must swim constantly to survive. As the Stars started their first official practice session for the 2023-24 campaign, they’re not sitting still. Can’t afford that. There’s too many bodies in the water. Lack of motion would cause a clog, and allow the competition to catch up.
BNL has a head start, even with the graduation loss of celebrated speedster Cole Baker. With a roster of 22, which includes 15 junior and seniors, the Stars have the talent and depth to defend that sectional title.
“I’m excited,” BNL coach Adam Young said. “Our numbers are better than they’ve been in a decade, and it’s an upperclass-heavy bunch. From top to bottom, it might be the best overall team we’ve had. We’ve had teams with very good swimmers but not the numbers. We have the best of both worlds, the numbers and the kind of talent we need.”
Baker, who finished fourth in the state in the 100-meter freestyle and eighth in the 50 free, was a once-in-a-generation competitor. BNL not have anyone to completely fill that void, but it has strength in numbers.
The returning talent includes Garrett Gabhart, a state qualifier in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke, and Isaiah Eicle, who advanced to the state meet in the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke. In addition, Gabhart teamed with veterans Isaiah Conner and Jayden Duke on a state-bound 400 free relay squad.
“I will be disappointed if we don’t have someone make it to Saturday (for the finals or consolations) at state,” Young said. “We have others with a chance to get to the state finals. I expect a pretty full state team. We have a lot of returning swimmers. We’re the hunted now. Teams will have to pick up a lot, just to deal with our depth.
“Some of those are brand new swimmers, and that’s one of the things I’m excited about, just how good our newbies are. They’re off to a great start and that’s what we need.”
Young also expects a big splash from junior Oliver Brown, a freestyler who is “absolutely the most improved, from the end of last season to the beginning of this season,” he said.
If BNL has a hole in the lineup, it is diving. The Stars currently don’t have anyone to compete in that event. “That has been a big strength in the past,” Young said. “Now it’s a vulnerability.”
The Stars will open the season against Edgewood on Nov. 21.