New KP Coach Dives Right In

Christopher Tremblay Staff Sports Writer
Issue Date: 
February, 2019
Article Body: 

When the former King Philip swim coach left the program, the Warriors were without a mentor to guide them into the new season. But then someone from the school decided it might be a good idea to talk to Janessa Barrett, a former three-sport athlete at KP. Swimming, however, was not one of her sports.
“One of the KP facility members approached me as I worked at the Adirondack Club in Franklin, where the team practiced, and asked me if I’d like to coach,” Barrett said. “I had never coached before, never mind being a swimmer, but since I was already working at the club I decided to take a shot at it.”
Even though the first-year coach didn’t know all that much about how to coach swimming, she did know that she had a strong group of accomplished swimmers on both the girls and boys teams, and that was a start.
The boys were 2-0 at the time of this writing, while the girls were 1-1. Barrett was not really worried about the boy’s team.
“It’s a small team of swimmers (about 14), but they are a powerhouse,” the coach said. “I’m not focused on winning with them, I’m looking to hone their skills. These boys are confident that they can win. They just need to improve.”
Leading the way in the pool for the boys will be senior captains Tyler Stringfellow and Colby Vieira. Stringfellow swims the breaststroke, while Vieira swims the backstroke, but both will swim anything asked of them to help the team win.
The boys’ team also has an interesting dynamic with a couple of brother combos. Stringfellow’s sophomore brother Cameron is on the team, while senior Dean and sophomore Derek Whyte also take part in the activities in the pool.
“I actually see more competitiveness coming from the younger brothers,” the coach said. “The older brothers are just trying to push their younger siblings to swim faster.”
Unlike the boys’ team, the girls were a little bit hesitant when they took to the pool for the first time.
“They got off to a slower start in the first meet. They were not prepared mentally,” Barrett said. “When the second meet came around they brought it, turned the switch on and captured the win.”
The girls team lost a lot of the second, third and fourth place finishers to graduation, so the new coach knew that she was going to have to build upon the girls she had this year to regain those positions. Luckily for Barrett, she had some underclassmen, especially incoming freshmen, who stepped it up almost immediately.
The underclassmen as a whole have been working on their techniques in the pool, but two freshmen who have elevated their swimming have been Olivia Bailey and Samantha D’Avignon.
“Olivia is an awesome swimmer with super versatility. She can swim anything from freestyle to the butterfly; she wants to compete at a high level,” the coach said. “Samantha swims short freestyle distances and was a pleasant surprise for us right out of the gate.”
While the younger swimmers have picked up the pace, the older girls are holding down the fort. Senior captain Jamie Buckley is a versatile swimmer who can take part in just about any event, doing whatever is best for the team. Emma Daly is the only non-club captain on the team, swimming exclusively for King Philip. Barrett feels club swimmers’ top priority isn’t necessarily the high school team, while Daly is an all-around warrior swimmer with a positive attitude in the pool. Megan Campbell, a junior also with a great attitude, swims the 500 and excels at the event.
With Barrett’s guidance, the Warrior swim captains decided they would focus on re-building the team this year.
“Prior to the season I talked to all the captains individually and they all had the same goal – they wanted to know everyone’s name,” the KP coach said. “They wanted to focus on building and being a team.”
The first-year coach believes her team can be competitive and go far. She also thinks a lot of her athletes will qualify for their events in the state meet.