As the spring sports’ season gets underway, the Manhattan High girls’ swimming and diving team will stay busy this week.
The Indians start their season today, with a diving competition in Emporia before the rest of the team travels to Emporia for the swim events on Thursday.
Both groups will have a short turnaround before competing in the inaugural Manhattan Invitational Friday night, with swimming events starting at 6 p.m. and diving to compete beforehand.
“I’ve always wanted to get an invite on the books for girls, and we’ve always struggled to find a weekend to do it,” Manhattan head coach Jerry Carpenter said. “Just because the way the school calendar is this year, it bumps up right back-to-back with Emporia. Next year, the Emporia meet will be before spring break, so we won’t have that issue.”
The event is scheduled to bring in six teams from around the state and is unique because most swim meets aren’t on Friday or at night.
“We’ve got six teams coming in, so it’ll be a good start,” Carpenter said. “It’s a little bit smaller the first year, but we’ll expand our invitation next year to a few new areas of the state and I think we’ll pick up some more.”
As for the team Carpenter will field this week, the longtime coach is optimistic about the athlete’s abilities as they gear up for their first meet.
“It’s a pretty good group of ladies that we have,” he said. “We have right around 50. We’ve got a lot of returning swimmers, at least 12 letterwinners coming back, and some other girls who were right on the edge of that. And we’ve got some good new girls that have come out, it’s a real good thing.”
Among returners with state experience, Alana Bucholtz, Mariah Scipio and Emily Cady will lead the way in swim events, with Tara Schroller also returning in diving. Carpenter also mentioned Katie Bussmann and Kaci Cink as returning letterwinners who will contribute at a high level.
The team will also feature a stable of newcomers, led by transfer Amanda Buckwalter and freshman Kelly Wichmann.
In the case of Buckwalter, her father got a job at Kansas State so the senior will finish out her high school career as an Indian.
“She transferred in from Texas,” Carpenter said. “When her dad came in, we got her and she’s fast. She’s a good swimmer and will be a real strong addition for us.”
Carpenter said Wichmann will contribute right away.
“I don’t usually say a whole lot about freshmen, but Kelly Wichmann coming in, she’s a real solid freshman,” he said. “She’s one of the Marlin kids, and she’s pretty talented. She’s going to help us a lot.”
While his team is strong, Carpenter did mention there were a select few among the swimming community who chose to swim exclusively with the Manhattan Marlins club team. Last year, only one athlete made that choice.
“For what it’s worth, there are three of the Marlins who chose to not come out for high school,” he said. “It’s not a personal thing, but the group of kids that we have are interested in the team aspect and they want to represent the high school, and the kids who chose to not swim, they’re great kids, but I think they’re looking more at the individual.
“They’re taking care of their swim interests, and being a part of the high school team is not a priority to them. It is what it is.”