The Post-Journal

JHS Swimmers Make Winning A Habit

The practices are long, arduous and unforgiving, but the results are paying dividends many times over at the Jamestown High School pool these days.

“This team is a group of kids who aren’t complainers, who have a good attitude,” said Coach Bill Rollinger, who has directed the Red Raiders to 53 straight victories. “They haven’t missed practice and they’ve worked hard.”

And caught their neighbors to the north by surprise in the process.

“Everybody in Buffalo thinks we are down,” said Rollinger, who last lost a meet in 1983 (at Clarence 42-41).

They should know better by now.

The Red Raiders are 4-0 in Division 2 of the Erie County Interscholastic Conference, 6-0 overall, and fifth in the Western New York poll.

All this from a team that lost two swimmers to graduation that went to the states the last two seasons (Tom Glenn and Jamie Holt), plus a slew of key contributors that paced Jamestown to a second-place ranking in Western New York and a fourth-place ranking in the state.

“Those were outstanding kids, who placed in the sectionals and the ECICs,” Rollinger said.

But this year’s group – led by the senior triumvirate of Tom Kiddoo, Charlie Watkins and Paul O’Brian – has met each of the preseason goals so far.

“Everybody’s coming through,” Rollinger said. “A coach talks about things being a team effort and this year it is a team effort. They’re coming out of nowhere."

For example, Tuesday against Orchard Park, Rollinger was able to juggle his lineup and still come away with a 45-38 victory over the Quakers, the sixth-ranked team in Western New York.

“I knew I had to get my points early,” Orchard Park coach Dale Heimlich told Post-Journal sportswriter Dent Thorpe. “I knew I had to have then before the freestyle relay because I knew Rollinger could split up his relay and still win the final event.”

Rollinger spends hours doing his “homework,” gleaning as much information as he can about the opposing swimmers and their times.

It’s been like that for 23 years.

“We work hard,” said Rollinger, who is assisted by Mike Swenson. “We start in November and do it through March. I think we work harder than the other high schools.”

He may be right.

The Red Raiders, who practice before and after school, total between 10,000 and 12,000 yards per day. Translated, that means about 5 miles or 400 laps of the 25-yard JHS pool.

Every day.

“They’re tired and they still swim fast,” Rollinger said.

One example is the 400-yard freestyle relay team of Kiddoo, O’Brian, Watkins and Craig Culhane, which is the owner of a Western New York-best time of 3:24.

Last year, the team of Kiddoo, Watkins, O’Brian and Holt posted a time of 3:17 and was, literally, a “touch” away from going to the state meet.

“One of our goals this year is to take that freestyle relay to the states,” said Rollinger, who has some quality depth in that relay. “The times we are swimming this year are a lot faster than they were at the same time last year.”

But first things first.

The Red Raiders have tough meets back to back, beginning today at seventh-ranked Sweet Home and continuing next Friday with a showdown at second-ranked Hamburg.

“In swimming, we look at teams (on our schedule) that could beat us,” Rollinger said. “One was Orchard Park, one was Sweet Home and the other is Hamburg. That’s what we work for and hopefully somebody doesn’t come in and sneak one from you.”

Given the Red Raiders’ track record over the last 53 meets – or more amazingly, the last 23 years – nobody’s going to pull the wool over Rollinger’s eyes.

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