Locals on the Shawsheen Tech co-ed swim team

The locals on the Shawsheen Tech co-ed swim team include from left, Adam Doucot, Leah Casey and Jasmine Johansen of Tewksbury, Alisa Lavino of Wilmington, and Makayla Nolan, Kasey McFadden and Jared Krueger, all of Tewksbury. (photo by JoeBrownphotos.com). 

BILLERICA – The Shawsheen Tech Co-Ed Swim team has built an incredible winning tradition over the past decade, with the girls team winning 11 consecutive state vocational titles from 2011-2020, while the boys won four titles of their own, including three in a row from 2018-2020. They did this through tremendous talent of course, but also through tremendous depth with a large and deep roster.

Things are a little different this season for the Rams. Not that they don’t still have some talented swimmers on both the boys and girls side, but they have been hit hard by graduation, losing a large batch of seniors of last year’s squad.

Shawsheen coach Rick Menard, entering his ninth season as head coach of the Rams, has presided over numerous titles for both the boys and girls teams, and while he knows this year will have a different look for his team, he says their approach remains the same.

“Just like the Patriots are doing, we are hoping to rebuild on the fly this season. Losing a huge senior class and not having much of a core of returning underclassmen due to Covid restrictions last season is a task we are working to overcome,” Menard said. “We are very fortunate to have our winning formula in our DNA though. All those straight girls’ titles and a shorter, but impressive, run of boys titles are literally looming over us every day in the pool.”

Menard also had another Patriots analogy for his team as they head into the season, one that he hopes will carry them through this season, just as it has in seasons past.

“I always get strange looks when I say my favorite quote at swim practice .... ‘Athletes swim; everyone else just plays games!’, Menard said. “This season we will need to be sure we are focused on this team to build athletes, there is no time to play games. We have, not unlike the Pats, a handful of ‘character athletes’ who keep us moving in the right direction, the group who come to train hard every day and set an example.”

One of those character athletes that Menard will be counting on this season will be senior Hannah Grimes, along with fellow senior Tyler Kopacz of Tewksbury.

“Hannah is a kid we can count on to put in the work and cheer on her teammates when she isn't in the water racing,” Menard said. “Tyler is a gutty veteran, who goes to get treatment at the trainer, then swim, then stretch, then swim, then ice, then race, then repeat.”

The Rams other seniors, Kevin Stevens and captain Kasey McFadden will also provide some much needed experience to an otherwise relatively young Rams roster.

“Kevin and Kasey are our legacy type of kids,” Menard said. “They are knocking the rust off after a COVID shortened junior year but are fundamentally sound and know what it is going to take to get us back to where we need to be to take on the rest of the league.”

Because of having such a thin roster, the seniors, like many others on the team will be competing in a number of events, with Kopacz competing in the mixed 200-medley relay and the 400-mixed freestyle relay, as well as the mixed 100-butterfly and the mixed 500-freestyle. Grimes, meanwhile will compete in the mixed 50-freestyle, as well as the mixed 200-freestyle relay, Stevens will compete in the mixed 200-medley relay, as well as the mixed 200-freestyle relay and the mixed 100-breaststroke, while McFadden will be in the water for the mixed 200-freestyle relay, the mixed 100-butterfly and the mixed 400-freestyle relay.

The Rams also have several newcomers to the team, with juniors Leah Casey, Adam Doucot Jasmine Johansen and Jared Kreuger, all from Tewksbury. In reality, these swimmers were with the Rams last season, but did not get much experience due to the shortened season, so this will be their first true full season with the team.

“The four of them are all poised to do some great things this year and I think are the keys to our transition into a bright future,” Menard said. “Those kids are the ones who are bridging the gap between the seniors we lost last year and the seniors we are losing, to the very raw but talented group of rookies.”

Casey and Doucot will each compete in the mixed 200-freestyle, while Casey will also compete in the mixed 200-freestyle relay and the mixed 400-freestyle relay, while Doucot will also compete in the mixed 100 backstroke. Krueger will compete in the mixed 200-medley relay, the missed 100-butterfly and the mixed 500-freestyle, while Johansen will compete in the mixed 50-freestyle.

The talented rookies that Menard referred to includes freshmen Alisa Lavino of Wilmington, Makayla Nolan of Tewksbury and Ethan Melanson.

“Each of those kids have stepped into a situation where we are doing a lot of work in a very short amount of time but have flourished,” Menard said. “In our very first meet they all not only raced effectively with excellent technical skills, but also helped the team stay close against a much stronger GBL team from Revere.

“Alisa and Makayla are going to be key in keeping the girls Voke State Title streak intact because we are going to struggle with so few girls returning this season. Ethan in just his second day with the team is already showing that he could be in the conversation for a top relay spot in what is shaping up to be a very deep boys’ team.

“This season is going to be tough, we are in the same boat as everyone else with the "gap year" I'm sure, but I think the core kids will really help set the tone for the future.”

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