GREAT BARRINGTON -- To look at the Monument Mountain boys swim results from last year to this year, you'd notice there's a lot of first-place finishes from both seasons. But that's where the similarities end.
Last season, the Spartans sported a roster of seven, so they weren't even close to filling the pool and struggled to find enough bodies for relays. While they did well individually, they couldn't do much as a team.
What a difference a year can make.
With a full complement of swimmers (14), the Spartans cruised through the league schedule and claimed the regular season title.
"It's been huge. The greatest thing about having so many guys on the team is we can really prove ourselves," said senior Will Palmer, who was a freshman on the team when Monument last won the league. "We've been waiting for this."
They now get to do something they haven't been able to do in a long time: compete seriously at the Western Massachusetts meet.
"So I'm just looking for them to have a good experience, for them to have a good taper, and have best times," Monument coach Jill Svirida said. I just want "to just see where they stack up against the rest of the region."
The Spartans are a co-op, which bumps them up into Division I and pits them against powers from the Pioneer Valley and Springfield area. Yet, there's hope the team can crack the top 10.
"If we graced the top 10, I'd be thrilled," Svirida said. "I'm just thrilled for my guys. They're awesome, they're excited, they're competitive within the ranks. They all want it, they all want to work hard and get there and that alone, nothing else included, is just going to take them really far."
The Spartans will be taking nine swimmers to Springfield College on Sunday, which gives them plenty of depth in both individual events and relays. Those nine swimmers will swim 16 individual events and three relays. They are seeded in the top 10 in five individual events (Brandon Louison's No. 4 seed in the 100 back is the highest) and two of the relays (200 free leads at No. 6).
"Our coach's goal is for us to place, and I think, we're going to do pretty well because we have lots of people that made it," senior Derrek Rueger said. "We have lots of swimmers, but we have lots of strong swimmers, so a bunch of us made it in a few events."
The nine swimmers are more than the Spartans had on their team last season. Palmer is hoping that quick turnaround will be contagious.
"I think it's huge," he said of the team's ability to change its fortune. "I would hope that we're a beacon of hope to other teams that I know this year are struggling with numbers."
The team doesn't seem to be too focused on where it ends up. Some of that can be attributed to the lack of practice the Spartans have had this year for a myriad of reasons to include starting a week later, finishing a week earlier and weather.
Any time in the pool is time well spent, especially for those already qualified for the state meet.
"In terms of a team, I think we're jut going to work on things ... because we've missed a ton of practice this year," said Louison, a freshman. "So I think, as a team, we're going to use Western Mass, as trying go best times and changing those little things we haven't gotten to change in the few days of practice that we've had."
It seems there's very little that will sour Svirida's outlook.
"I'm thrilled. I could not be happier. I'm really happy with where things are at, and I think the boys are just going to have a blast," she said. "When they're happy and they're rested, they swim fast, and that's what I'm looking for."
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