First-year head coach Michael Peterson envisions a bright future for the Fort Dodge girls swim program.
Peterson, who is replacing Rosie Ellendson at the helm, is a former Ames High and University of Denver standout. He previously served as an assistant coach with the Colorado Stars, helping the team to six straight Colorado state titles and two Junior National Championships.
During his time with the Stars, Peterson helped in the development of Olympic Gold Medalist Missy Franklin and Olympian Kara Lynn Joyce.
As a high school coach, Peterson was voted the Colorado 5A Coach of the Year while at Grandview in Aurora, Colo. His squad broke nine of eleven school records and had several swimmers win state titles and earn All-America honors.
"I look at it as kind of an opportunity to make a big impact using the talents of what I've learned," said Peterson, who will also direct the Iowa Central men's and women's swim teams in the fall of 2015. "I've been all over the country and around a lot of fast swimmers. I'm excited. A lot can happen pretty fast here. I think Fort Dodge has great potential."
Senior Elli Russell (freestyles and backstroke), sophomore Gretta Leigh (freestyles and backstroke), sophomore Lehr Thorson (breaststroke) and junior Ashley Graham (freestyles) will all be leaned on heavily by Peterson.
2014 FORT DODGE GIRLS SWIMMING
Seniors - RyAnn Dawson, Taylor Pingel, Elli Russell, Rebecca Steig.
Juniors - Ashley Graham, Jaci Scott, Rachel Rethwisch.
Sophomores - Andrea Blocker, Alexis Bugera-Brown, Caitlyn Goebel, Gretta Leigh, Holly Stockdale, Lehr Thorson.
Freshmen - Taylor Hartley, Kate Keith, Adyson McKinney, Hannah Miller, Emily Schaffer, Julie Thompson, Alexis Hemann, Violet Wheeler.
(Start times 5:30 p.m. unless noted)
Aug. 26 -at West Des Moines Dowling.
Sept. 2 - at Southeast Polk; Sept. 4 - Ankeny; 9 - Marshalltown/Des Moines North; 16 - West Des Moines Valley; 18 - Host Fort Dodge Invitational; 23 - at Mason City; 30 - at Ames, 5 p.m.
Oct. 7 - at Waukee; 14 - Johnston; 21 - at CIC Invitational, 5 p.m.
"Our goal is to come out and win four meets, qualify a couple of replays for state, and get an individual to state," Peterson said. "Success builds on itself, so getting off to a good start can kind of set the tone for the rest of the season."
Other upperclassmen on the Dodger roster are seniors RyAnn Dawson, Taylor Pingel and Rebecca Steig, along with juniors Jaci Scott and Rachel Rethwisch. Freshmen Taylor Hartley, Katie Keith and Addison McKinney also have a chance to make an impact at the varsity level.
"I don't know if we have enough depth to beat a team like Dowling in our first meet, but we can set some events early on to make (the Maroons) win the meet in the back half," said Peterson. "Our girls are in pretty good shape and are amped up and ready to go. We've been having doubles (practices) mornings and evenings. I think they understand it's a different dynamic this season."
Four-time defending state champion Ames looks to be the league favorite once again. Marshalltown and Mason City round out the CIC Northern Division.
Ashley Koons will assist Peterson this season.
Fort Dodge debuts with a dual at West Des Moines Dowling on Tuesday. The Dodgers welcome Ankeny for their home opener on Sept. 4, while the FDSH Invitational is set for Sept. 18.