I know, I know. My role as a sports reporter comes with a responsibility to remain unbiased. Typically, I feel like I hold myself to that standard. But today I break the mold. I apologize to the journalism ethics gods; I’m about to be biased as hell.
Saturday was a rough day.
The Sheridan High School swim team finished second at the state meet. I wrote earlier this week why that feat was nothing to hang their heads over, but that probably doesn’t eliminate the heartbreak. I was there; I felt it.
The Lady Broncs swim team was arguably my favorite team I’ve covered since I moved to Sheridan in 2014.
Again, that’s probably against a sportswriter’s moral code, but I think it also speaks volumes of the team. Take into consideration I’ve covered multiple state championship football teams. There have been golf champions and championship runners-up; the number of kids I’ve talked to and enjoyed getting to know is nearly endless. It’s hard for me to point out a team I didn’t enjoy covering at least a little bit.
But this Sheridan swim team was special.
When I arrived in Sheridan four summers ago, I had covered zero swim meets. I could probably have counted the number of swim meets I had ever attended on one hand, and it was likely less than that. I knew swimming; I felt like I understood it. But I never really dove into it — no pun intended.
Admittedly, that probably showed in my work at first. Whether it translated to broader coverage or less coverage, or both, I think my lack of comfort with the sport kept me away.
But Brent Moore and a group of girls pushed me off the deck and into the water. Not literally, thankfully, but I couldn’t help but chase the curiosity. What made this team so good?
Sheridan’s swim program had struggled mightily for a long time. Even my first season, the Lady Broncs finished fifth at state. But I quickly realized the direction the team was heading, and it was about to be a quick climb to the top.
Moore has high expectations for his swimmers. The team practices both in the mornings and after school. It’s a grueling process, but he somehow convinced the girls of its worth. I say “somehow” because it’s hard to find that balance of trust and hard work. It’s what separates the best coaches from the average.
And Moore not getting Coach of the Year at the state meet was a travesty. No disrespect to the coaches who won — certainly worthy — but I’ve spent time with Moore. He should have won it.
Maybe convincing the swimmers to buy-in came easy for Moore because of who those swimmers were. Again, I’ve spent a lot of time around a lot of prep athletes. These girls were tough to beat.
The girls were always open and honest with me during interviews. They never shied away from being themselves. They had fun, and they weren’t afraid to let their personalities shine during a quick five-minute interview with some random bum from The Sheridan Press. Molly Green, for example, says hi to me every time she sees me. It’s such a simple gesture, but it tells a lot about a person. That’s who she is; that’s who her teammates are, too.
And it doesn’t hurt that they’re a bunch of sharks in the pool.
I was rooting for them to win a state title. Just being around them over the past four seasons, they deserved it. This year’s group of seniors carved a path and set a standard for Sheridan swimming. It was mighty impressive.
I can’t say whether my swimming knowledge has greatly increased over the years or not. That’s for the experts to decide, I guess. Hopefully it has.
But my respect for a group of swimmers — for a team and its coach — has skyrocketed. If the goal was a championship, the Lady Broncs didn’t fall short at all. They made me pay attention; their personalities wore off on me, and I’m sure I’m just one of many.
That’s a champion.