Veteran coach Jean Dowd knows one thing for certain entering this season: She will have one of the smallest squads in her years at the helm of the Jayettes.
Perry will attempt to complete a season with just nine girls on the roster, of whom four are seniors and two are juniors.
There are 11 non-diving events during a meet, with each swimmer limited to competing in two individual events and two of the three relays. With only nine swimmers, Dowd will have to juggle her lineup almost every time out.
"I think it could be a case where every meet something is going to be different for the girls," Dowd admitted. "We will focus on having a good medley relay team and then will have to decide whether to swim the 200 or 400 freestyle relay.
"It also depends upon where we have some of the girls in the individual events," she said. "We don’t want someone swimming an individual event and then having to turn right around and compete in a relay. I would doubt we swim the 400 free relay (the last event at a meet) very often, but you never know and we need to be ready for anything."
Steady scorers Shaleah Ewing and Taylor Wieland return for their senior season, as does Hailee Dencklau and Shannon Hellyer.
"I am happy to have those four girls out for us," Dowd said. "They give us plenty of experience and help set good examples for the rest of the girls."
Juniors Serenity Ewing and Lourdes Marquez have plenty of experience as well, as do sophomores Haileigh Kenyon and Sabrina Nicolaisen, so the team is not introducing rookies to varsity competition.
"That is one of the things going for us — we all know how things work and the amount of work required to continue dropping times as the season progresses," Dowd said. "In the past we have had 9-10 experienced swimmers and then another seven, eight or so that we are just trying to get into shape and ready for varsity meets, but this year we won’t have to worry about that."
The only new face on the squad is freshman Haley Vaughn.
"Haley has spent many years on the summer swim team, so she should be ready to go for us," Dowd stated. "We will use her in the breastroke and maybe the sprints (50 and 100 meter freestyle), we will just have to see. Like all of the girls, Haley will have to be prepared to swim on at least one of the two relays."
Shaleah Ewing will swim the butterfly and individual medley, with Wieland in the 500 free and possibly the IM or breaststroke while Dencklau will compete in the 200 free and breaststroke with Hellyer seeing pool time on a yet-to-be determined slate.
Serenity Ewing will push off the wall for the backstroke and might see time in the 200 free or butterfly as well, with Marquez a likely choice in both the 200 and 500 freestyle races. Kenyon will dive in for the sprint freestyle events, with Nicolaisen to swim in the backstroke and a freestyle event.
"I am happy with the progress we are making in practices so far and am really pleased by the efforts of those girls who are involved in other activities of making arrangements to get their practices done in the morning in the weeks leading up to the start of school," Dowd said. "Obviously we know each other very well, and this is a good working group as far as knowing what they need to do and then doing it — I don’t think any of them wants to let the others down."
Perry will not see their home waters for nearly a month, as a Sept. 26 visit from Indianola will mark their first home meet.
"I actually think that is good for building confidence," Dowd said of having the first four meets of the season all on the road. "I think sometimes it is easier for the girls to try something they may not be used to on the road instead of at home in front of friends and family. It gives them a chance to settle into what they will be doing instead of feeling the pressure of having to swim something different for the first time at home."