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New coach has high hopes for Freeburg swim team

New coach has high hopes for Freeburg swim team

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As usual, Julie Hartman is spending a lot of her summer working with the Freeburg swim team. But this year she has a new title - head coach.

Hartman, a longtime assistant for the Waves, replaces Sarah Rouland, who was head coach for the past two years. Rouland resigned due to job commitments.

A Belleville native and a former swimmer at the University of Missouri, Hartman now lives in Freeburg. She has been with the swim team for 15 years, so taking over the head coaching position wasn't a big transition.

"We have some new people coming in to help me coach, but I know all the kids and hopefully that will make things run a little smoother," Hartman said.

Freeburg placed fourth among nine teams at last year's Midwest Swim Conference meet.

"That was awesome for us because we have maybe four year-round swimmers," Hartman said. "We're strictly a summer club and we're going up against a lot of teams that have a lot of year-round swimmers."

The Waves do have depth, with 102 swimmers on the roster.

"About 30 of them are new, but we lost quite a few older kids," Hartman said. "The 13-year-olds have other commitments and other sports and some other kids graduated. But we still have a pretty big group of 15-18 kids."

One of the leaders for the 15-18 girls is Mackenzie Mattern, who has been swimming since she was 4. On the 15-18 boys side, Danny Lehmann is a standout in the backstroke. Dominic Buchmiller returns after spending most of last summer in Australia.

Other top swimmers for the Waves are Erica Wangelin (11-12 girls), Elias Czech (11-12 boys), Grace Brauer (9-10 girls), Chris Alt (13-14 boys) and Haley Alt (11-12 girls).

"If we can get them all here, our strongest group is the 13-14 boys," Hartman said. "We also have a really strong 11-12 girls group, with 22 kids and a lot of talent.

"On the other hand, we don't have a lot of 11-12 boys. We're losing a lot of them to baseball. We've got a lot of kids in the lower age groups, so we're not short on numbers, but they're just learning what it's like to be on a swim team."

Hartman is assisted by Anita Byars, a former head coach for Freeburg. The other coaches, all active swimmers, are Mattern, Sierra Neighbors and Alli Wegrzyn.

Freeburg opened the season June 15 with a win over Dorchester. On Thursday, the Waves lost to St. Clair Country Club, which placed fifth in the conference last year. Hartman's squad was scheduled to play host to Hilltoppers on Tuesday and has a bye on Thursday.

"We would love to move up in the conference," Hartman said. "The kids are really working to try to break some records that go back to the 1980s (when Freeburg was in the Kaskaskia Conference).

"For our new swimmers, their goal is to just get their times better. That way next year they can start the season off and know where they're going."

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