Carson High School swimming and diving coach Dave Huffmire enjoyed a memorable season in his first year as the Senators' coach, as the Senator boys and girls swept the 1994 state team titles. That was the last time one team captured both championships.
Seven seasons later, Huffmire is hoping his exit can match his entrance. He's looking for both the Carson boys and girls teams to make a solid bid for state championships this spring in Huffmire's final year of coaching the Senators.
"It would be a storybook ending to go out with both the boys and girls team winning state," said Huffmire, who said he will step aside at the conclusion of this season to concentrate on his administrative duties as the Dean of Students at Carson High and to spend more time with his children. "Even if they got last place, though, I'd still have good feelings about these teams."
There is little chance of the Carson teams taking last place at state. The Senator girls, with several Olympic trials qualifiers, will field a team this season capable of beating many countries' Olympic squads. The Carson boys, usually hampered by a lack of depth, have a deep 17-man roster.
"Absolutely, this is the strongest girls team I've coached," Huffmire said. "And I think we have the potential to be one of the top two teams at state in the boys, which is something we haven't had at Carson in five years. With the boys diving team and a little bit of luck, I think the boys have a chance of winning as well as the girls. "
Considering that the Carson girls have won seven of the last eight Nevada state titles, it's saying something if this is the strongest Senator squad Huffmire has seen in his coaching tenure. But with the return of several individuals who helped Carson beat Reno 131-116 in the '99 championship, along with the addition of freshman Olympic Trials qualifier Lauren Costella, there is no reason not to think the Senators won't make it five championships in a row at the state meet at UNLV on May 20.
Looking at the Senator girls' lineup is like glancing at a "Who's Who" in national age-group swimming. A few of the top Carson swimmers include:
n Julie Hardt - A Goodwill Games participant in 1998, Julie owns the state championship records in the 200-yard IM (2:03.61) and 500-yard freestyle (4:56.57). She has already qualified for the Olympic Trials in four events, including the 200-, 400-, and 800-meter freestyle events and the 400 IM.
n Kate Hardt - Kate was a member of two relay teams which set state championship records in '99, including the 200-yard medley relay and the 400-yard freestyle relay. She was second in the state in the 200-yard freestyle (1:53.54) last spring.
n Jessie Hong - Hong surprised everyone by winning the state 100-yard backstroke in 58.74 last season. Huffmire said she's even stronger this season.
n Lauren Costella - Costella, a 15-year-old freshman, has qualified for the Olympic Trials in two events. Capable in the long freestyle events, Huffmire is counting on Costella to pick up some of the slack created by the graduation of Dana Baum, who won two events at state in '99 is now swimming at the University of Minnesota.
Megan Keller, third in the 100-yard butterfly at state, also returns for Carson this season.
The boys, seventh in the team standings in '99, also return several state finalists, and they welcome freshman Justin Barber, who tore up Far West competition last summer and placed fourth in the Canadian Championships in the 1,500-meter freestyle just last week.
Some of Carson's top returners include:
n Ryan Costella - Costella, a senior, placed fourth in the 100 butterfly and fifth in the 500 freestyle in the '99 finals.
"I think it's possible," said Costella when asked if Carson could beat reigning champion Reno High this year. " We have Justin Barber; he's got several events he can win in with the way he's been swimming. Ryan Theilemann is a good sprinter and will do well in several events, and we've got a ton of divers who look pretty strong."
n Evan Fischer - Fischer, also a senior, placed second in the 200 IM and the 100 breaststroke last spring.
According to Huffmire, the Carson boys will benefit from the added depth of their team. The improved Carson Aquatic Facility seems to be drawing interest to the team, as the Senators have a healthy total of 60 swimmers and 17 divers on the roster.
"It was the 'build it, and they will come' theory from Field of Dreams," said Huffmire. "We have this facility everyone heard about, they came and saw it, and now we have enough space and room so that everyone is comfortable."
One advantage of the enlarged Carson Aquatic Club Facility is the fact both swimming and diving practice can be held simultaneously. Until this season, the Senator divers had to travel to another site to train.
The new convenience of diving practice combined with the addition of diving coach Sam Hardt, a former Carson High swimmer and the older brother of Senators Katie and Julie Hardt, has resulted in a tremendous increase in the number of athletes joining the diving team. The high number of divers is a luxury the Senators haven't had in the past.
Carson swept Incline in its first dual meet of the season last Saturday. The Senators swim at South Tahoe on Friday at 2:30 p.m.
Notes: The 2001 state championships are tentatively set for Carson City While this will be Huffmire's final season, assistant coaches Monica Weaver and Mickel Lopategui are expected to return next year.