December 07, 2011 - The varsity boys swim/dive team is finding a home in the Oakland Activities Association blue division.
Back row: (left to right) T. Cook, J. Butler, D. Merrill, S. Thomas, B. Silvester Third Row: (left to right) Coach Rank, H. Deplaunty, B. Hibdon, C. Lavender, D. Merrill, N. McNeil, C. Scribner, Coach Lopez Second Row: (left to right) D. Stockard, L. Marshall, J. Beaupied, C. Jones, E. Vandecar, J. Tasch, M. Campagiorni Front Row: (left to right) E. Patrell, J. Tasch, D. Butkiewicz, M. Campagiorni, C. Stresky, A. Michalski Not in the picture: Coach Miller, Coach Walker, S. Maugherman, A. Twork, D. Wagner. (click for larger version)
Entering their second year in the blue division, varsity swim/dive coach Jackie Rank thinks the 2011-12 Oxford Wildcats are going to surprise some people this year.
"I think we do have a lot of talent on the team and a lot of teams don't really know us and know the name Oxford and I think meets that we lose are going to be closer than the teams that win it expect the meet to be and I think we will win some meets that aren't expected," Rank said. "I think we have a lot of talent that is going to show up and surprise people."
However, divisional realignment gives Oxford some fresh opponents for the upcoming season.
During OAA blue play, the Wildcats will be squaring off against Troy Athens, Auburn Hills Avondale, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Royal Oak and Southfield Lathrup.
"I have a feeling that we will probably be the middle of the pack. We were probably middle to low end of the pack last year, and I would like to see us a little bit higher this year," Rank said. "You want to be realistic, but you know they are going to finish higher. They should finish higher this year."
Even though they lost their top diver and sprinter from last season, the depth of the diving program has improved with the addition of the Campagiorni brothers (Marco and Matthew) and with returning swimmers/divers junior Jarrod Butler, sophomore Blake Hibdon, senior Joey Tasch and sophomore Eric Vandecar, the program looks to be in good hands this season.
"We lost quite a bit of power, but what I think a lot of what we have returning is really going to step up and improve this year," she said.
One freshman who is looking to make an immediate impact on the team is Cheyne Stresky, who swims for the Lake Orion Liquid Lightning.
"He was in pretty darn good shape when he came in," Rank said.
For Rank, her number one goal for this season was to have more swimmers make it to the county and state meet.
"I know they are capable of doing so," she said. "That would be nice to have an official team go (to states). The same thing with the county meet. You have to have a certain time to make it to the county meet, so it would be nice to have some more representation there."
One improvement Rank has seen only a few days into practice is the overall speed of the boys.
She noted the boys are already faster starting off this year than they were last year.
"Those boys that are returning, they know what to expect a little bit better, so they were ready to work a little bit harder this year," Rank said. "We've already seen improvements with the new kids. Our coaches Heather (Miller) and Glen (Walker) have been spending a lot of time down there teaching them how to do freestyle and flipturns and streamlines and backstroke."
"We are starting from scratch with a lot of the boys, but we are doing pretty darn well and have seen lots of improvement there," she added.
The Wildcats open up at home against Avondale on Thursday Dec. 8. The meet begins at 6 p.m.
Rank thinks the meet could go either way. "We lost to them last year…we have the three divers that will really help us. Last year we just really had the one, and this year they have one diver and there is a chance he won't dive, so that should be some easy points," she said.
"But at the same time, they are a more developed program, we've only been around for a few years," she added.
Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.