This has been far from a typical start to the season for the four-time defending Badger North champs.
With the Waunakee High School’s pool currently devoid of water, the Waunakee girls’ swim team has had to find a temporary home for preseason practices. Add in a brand new head coach leading the team, and 2019’s beginning has been the opposite of business as usual for the Warriors.
Heather Frank is the new head coach at the helm for the Warriors, returning to coaching after a two-year hiatus. Previously, she coached the Baraboo boys’ swim team for four years.
“I decided to take some time,” said Frank of her departure from coaching at Baraboo. “I missed it; I didn’t realize how much I was going to miss it, so that’s why – when I heard the Waunakee job opened up – [I had] to take a chance. I put my hat in the ring.”
During her tenure at Baraboo, Frank also coached community rec and the Riptide summer tri-county league in Portage.
Making life easier for Frank at Waunakee is a strong group of leaders returning for the Warriors, including a trio of swimmers that competed at the WIAA State Meet in 2018: senior Abi Schmeiser, junior Ella Graf and sophomore Makenzie Wallace.
“It’s great to have the leaders we have,” Frank added. “We have ability all across the gamut; that’s awesome because then we also have the leaders all across the board. We’re really fortunate.”
Schmeiser competed in both the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke at state a year ago, and Graf joined her in the 100 backstroke. The two teamed up with Wallace and the graduated Emma Grindle in the 200 medley relay, while Schmeiser is the lone returnee from last year’s state-qualifying 400 freestyle relay.
Bolstering Waunakee’s lineup behind their trio of state returnees are a large group of swimmers. Over 30 girls are on the roster, making Waunakee one of the deepest teams in the Badger North.
Poised to make an impact in 2019 include seniors Allie Hoffman and Megan Maxfield, along with sophomores Brooke Bound and Tessa Pauls, among others. A talented group of freshmen will push Waunakee’s experienced swimmers, hoping to snag some varsity races for themselves.
“We do have that good group of freshmen that are going to step in quickly,” said Frank. “They’re not going to have a lot of time to sit back. From what I’ve seen so far, they’re aggressive kids, and they’ve been swimming a long time. They know what they want; they want their varsity spots, and they’re working hard.”
With both top-end talent and depth on this year’s team, the Warriors have a fifth straight Badger North Conference title in their sights. First things first, though: Waunakee begins their season on Aug. 22 by heading to Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln for an invitational meet.
The Warriors will then have nearly two weeks before they host their next contest: the Badger North Relays on Sept. 3, with the rest of the season quickly unfolding after.