Alex Brown can hear the members of his Manhattan High boys swim and dive team talking, even when they don’t know it.
That’s a reassuring thing for Brown, though. He likes what he hears. They consider themselves a family to each other. That can be typical of sports teams, but 60-plus athletes on a high school swim team is anything but typical, Brown said.
“We have about 60, and a normal boys team is about 30 to 35,” Brown said. “From what I recall, nobody in the state had near as many kids.”
Brown’s massive team has its first meet on Wednesday at Topeka West. The divers begin at 1:30 p.m., and the swimmers follow at 4 p.m. There’s often a large influx of new faces for Brown, but the expectations never waver.
“We have the same expectations every year, I’d say,” Brown said. “Win our league meet and win every home meet that we can. We have a pretty tough home slate overall. There are a lot of teams that visit us that are top 10 in the division. That’s always good competition.”
Staying organized is crucial for Brown and his coaching staff. With such a large roster and variety of athletes, he usually separates the preseason workouts and conditioning into three categories.
“There are the kids who do year-round stuff and are already here in-shape,” Brown said. “And along with those are some of our higher-placing returners. They have more challenging conditioning. Then we have some of our JV kids who come here and a lot of it is about getting in shape and getting their skills and technique back under them. Then we’ve got our kids who are brand new to the sport.”
The preseason conditioning is challenging for them, Brown said. The strength and endurance is as tough as anything many of the boys have ever tried, but he’s typically been pleased.
“It’s pretty cool to see how many of them stick it out,” Brown said. “We have barely any that quit in the first week despite how physically demanding it is to anything they’ve done before.”
The hard work and close relationships have paid off, too. The Indians have many talented returners with state meet experience and have placed and competed at a high level. That group includes Xander Say, Brandon Spielman, Igor Sheshukov and Zeke Kohl.
The leadership and size of the team formed a healthy competitive environment within the practices, Brown said.
The team likes to have fun, but it’s also business for them. Brown said he doesn’t worry about the boys not taking what they do seriously, because they’ve come to enjoy the grind.
“When they become that close, they don’t worry about who is faster or whatnot,” Brown said. “The kids come out because they hear all these things. It’s something to be a part of.”