St. Joseph, MO – Thomas Huitt-Johnson.  Central boys swimming had a ton of coaching turnover over the past few years.  But the boys continue to be successful.

With their fourth coach in less than four years, the boys are going to state for the second year in a row. Before last season, the team hadn’t been to state since 2013.

Led by senior Tyler Dorsey, they felt this year’s team could meet their goals despite not having a coach the first week of school.

“It’s been a common theme with the swim team, of not having a consistent coach,” Dorsey said Tuesday at Thomas Eagleton Indoor Pool at Missouri Western. “So I kind of talked to the other seniors, and organized everything, and said if we’re going to make it this year, it’s on us.”

Central brings Dorsey, seniors Jack Nelson and Chase Larson, junior Hayden Stewart, and freshmen Adam Honson and Mitchell Steele to the 2018 MSHSAA Swimming & Diving Championships this week. Dorsey, Nelson, Larson and Honson make up the relay squad while Stewart and Steele are the alternates.

Today, the team travels to St. Peters for competition Thursday and Friday.

After their coach resigned to start the year, Central had a job opening for a new swim coach. That’s when Katy Graves stepped in.  The first-year coach is a special education teacher at Truman Middle School. A former swimmer and a kids volleyball coach, Graves took the job and immediately knew of the potential her new team had.

“I just hoped they would get to state,” Graves said, “but we didn’t know for sure.”

This past week, when MSHSAA released the teams advancing through consideration times, Central found out it officially made it again. And with a team going back-to-back to the final race of the season, Graves sees a bright future that could extend the streak down the line.

“The team is pretty young,” she added. “Even the kids who couldn’t go to state this year, if they keep up the progress they’ve shown this year in their high school career, they’re definitely going to have an option to go.”

She has 25 boys on this year’s team, far more than Central had over the past five seasons.  Dorsey said the team has more than doubled since his freshman campaign. Fellow senior Jack Nelson echoed those comments.

“This year, we have the most that I’ve ever seen,” Nelson said. “Our freshmen … they’ve been cutting times. (They are) right up there with varsity.”

Less than two weeks ago, the team made it to the finals of conference, doing well in the 200 free and 500 free. The school hosted a pep rally last week for the swimmers, along with last week’s state-qualifying cross country teams, who are headed out.

It was one of many final moments for Dorsey, and it all ends this week. As least the season lasted as long as he hoped.

Even with a lot of change.

“Hopefully this is opening a new chapter for the Central swim team,” Dorsey said. “My freshman year, there was probably half (the numbers as now). This has definitely changed.”

Thomas Huitt-Johnson can be reached


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