ANDOVER — It'll be pretty difficult to surpass last year's season, but you can surely bet that the members of the Methuen/Tewksbury Co-Ed/Co-Op swim team will give it their all to be even better.
Last year, the Red Rangers finished with a 7-4 overall record, which included winning both the MVC Division 2 and MVC Division 2 Championship Meet titles, before having a handful of swimmers compete and place at the sectional and state meets. The two league titles were the first since the two schools joined forces for the 2015 fall season.
Combined the teams have 38 swimmers, which includes five girls from Tewksbury, 24 girls from Methuen and nine boys, who all reign from Methuen.
"On the girls side, we did lose some talented swimmers, like Quang (Vu), Emma (White) and Meredith (Chase) to graduation, which has left some holes and we had another who decided not to come back and she chose to focus more on club swimming," said head coach Jason Smith. "But we have a lot of girls who have worked extremely hard over the summer and the off-season, girls who have been swimming for club teams and swimming year round. We have some newcomers who are ready to come in to fill the void of some of those kids who have graduated."
Both White and Chase were veteran swimmers from Tewksbury and they have since graduated, while another Tewksbury resident Meghan Ostertag joined the team last year because of injuries from her first two seasons with the cross-country team, but has gone back to running. That leaves five females from Tewksbury on the team, which includes, seniors Lauren Countie and Callie Legvold, junior Marykate Callinan, who joined the team after playing Volleyball the last two years at TMHS, and sophomores Madeline Anderson and Ada Nicodemus.
"The Tewksbury kids have fit in really well," said Smith. "They are nice kids. They listen well, they take in instruction really well, so that's always a positive. The Tewksbury kids have really done their best. They come in here, they work really hard, they fit in and like I said you would never know who goes to Tewksbury High and who goes to Methuen High based on their interactions."
Countie and Legvold have been with the program for all four years now and both will be relied upon heavily this season, but it'll take a bit before Countie can be counted on.
"Lauren Countie is dealing with shoulder symptoms again this year so hopefully she will be able to put those to the side and contribute," said Smith. "She did a good job last year with sprint freestyle and part of the relays, as those groups qualified for sectionals and states. Sprint Freestyle is something that she has excelled at, but she has been hampered by a few injuries but hopefully she will be able to finish strong this year."
Legvold will compete in the 200 and 500-meters, as well as various relay teams.
Anderson is another returning swimmer.
"Maddie continues to work hard," said Smith. "She was new to the sport last year and she came in ready to go this year. She now has the knowledge of what we do and what it takes to get through a season and excel. We are excited to see where she is, where she has progressed and how she has gotten there."
Both Callinan and Nicodemus are new to the team this year.
"Mary Kate suffered an injury that won't allow her to play volleyball anymore," explained Smith. "She does have some swimming experience as a younger kid and knows what it's all about. It's just taken her some time to get back into the swing of things. She's had a little bit of a set back with some ear infections, so hopefully that's not a long-term thing.
"Aida has a little bit of club (swimming) background so she has some knowledge of the strokes and has had some club practice experience and has been in some meets. She's familiar with how swimming is run and we look forward to seeing what she can do to contribute."
Besides Countie and Legvold, the other senior girls on the team, all from Methuen, include Samantha DeNaro, Kyra Donahue, Paulina Encarncion, Ava Facella, Katelyn Montgomery and Hana Youssef. The junior class includes just Emily Loan and Tori Minkovitz.
The sophomores will be Anna Bolduc, Jonni Charest, Nari Coplin, Lily Forsyth, Jacquelyn Gaigals, Julia Galuska, Rachael Knipe, Kristen LeBlanc, Katie Lefebvre, Jenny Nguyen, Devosha Pearce and .
The freshmen group includes Marissa Connolly, Callie DeLano, Caitlyn Nims, Hannah Sapienza and Samantha Voutour.
The team’s four captains include Facella, DeNaro, Donahue and Montgomery.
The Red Rangers will once again compete in MVC D2 along with North Andover, Billerica, Lowell, Notre Dame Academy and Dracut, while the large school will consist of Andover, Chelmsford, Central Catholic and Haverhill.
"I believe that we should be in contention for that MVC Division 2 title," said Smith. "The test will come early as we have North Andover the second week of the season and they should be right up there. We'll know early where we stand."
On the boys side, there's nine, all from Methuen including juniors Samuel Camacho and Joseph Lehman, sophomores Cory Boissell, Caleb Canavan, Lexander Flores, Brady Lyons and Jan Polanco and then freshmen Daniel Donahue and Philip Nguyen.
"There are nine total boys including three divers and all of which are progressing very, very well and they are all strong," said Smith. "This year we have a couple of newcomers on the boys team and he has some club experience. Samuel Camacho who swam with us last year is in his shape and ready to go for this season. It should be good. It's a larger number of boys than we have had before."
Meghan Kijanka, a former MHS and Springfield College swimmer, returns as one of the team's assistant coaches.
The Red Rangers will open up the season on Friday against Chelmsford. They will face each of the nine league teams once, and also have one non-league meet with Stoneham to be held on October 7th.