It all started at the beginning of the year with recruiting. A season can be won or lost based on the pool of talent
Head coach, Jason Craighead, knows this all too well having coached swim teams at several other schools.
But lucky for coach Craighead, Las Positas is a different story.
He and his staff have been able to overcome this obstacle by putting together a 51 person roster of local athletes with nearly two thirds of which being incoming freshmen.
“The talent in the area is phenomenal” said Craighead, “It’s a great geographical location and I don’t have a whole lot of competitors.”
With three meets in the books, the Las Positas Hawks Swim Team looks to continue their dominance and present themselves as a legitimate powerhouse within the Coast Conference.
The defending conference champions began their season on Feb 6, when the Hawks headed to Santa Rosa to compete in an all-relay competition. Soon after, the Hawks then hosted two events of their own here at Las Positas, the second of which being a two day event held on Feb19 and 20.
The men’s and women’s teams demonstrated a modest, yet respectable effort in the meet, placing third and second respectively.
Though competition has been fierce thus far, with the team competing against programs outside of their own conference, the goals of the Hawks are set to be much larger than performing well in early season exhibitions.
Second year veteran Jared Benge is a believer of this sentiment saying that the team has a lot in store for them this year.
“I think we can qualify in some events for state and win a Coast Conference Championship again this year,” he said. “We have a lot of fast people on the team. I think we can do it.”
While it is within reasonable expectations to complete these objectives, it is also fair to ask how the Hawks prepared to not only meet, but achieve these goals.
In addition to the new faces, the team has 18 returning swimmers from last season, complementing youthful talent with both experience and veteran leadership.
Sophomores Jared Benge, Chris Buckman, and Manuel Hernandez are all returning veterans who look to improve on successful season from last year that still left some things to be desired.
Benge, who specializes in freestyle and breaststroke, Buckman in individual medley, and Hernandez in freestyle all hope to qualify and compete in both individual and relay events on the State level of competition.
“I was a couple of seconds off for the 50 (meter) free to qualify. But I can already tell from the beginning of this year that I feel faster.” Benge in his last season of eligibility, said. “We’re a lot faster as a team this year, but we’ll just have to wait and see. See how the season goes.”
But talent can only get a team so far. An established coaching staff is arguably just important as the athletes on the roster. Luckily for Las Positas, they have just that.
In his sixth year since starting the Las Positas Diving and Swimming program, Craighead says that he feels very comfortable in his current position.
“This has probably been the best environment that I’ve had in terms of support from the college and administration,” he said.
Off-season training, two-a-day workouts leading up to the start of the season, and lengthy practices have all contributed to his team’s early success, but Craighead says he isn’t only focused on being a coach of athletes in the water. He said he values the other aspect of the term student-athlete as well, the student.
“The biggest thing is educating our freshmen. Regardless of their ability level coming in, it’s just a different animal, so-to-speak, competing at the college level.” Craighead said. “Part of it is making them (the athletes) aware of what resources are available for them on campus to help them out.”
Craighead’s system has proven to work so far in the program’s first six years. And the team hopes to build on the foundation that has already been laid out in front of them.
As the Hawks look to prove themselves as a formidable team their next test will come on Friday, February 26 when they head to Sacramento City College to compete in the Sac City Invitational.
With eight more meets remaining until the Coast Conference Championships, there are still a lot of improvements to be made and work to be done. But make no mistake, the future looks to be bright for the Las Positas College swim team.