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Teamwork, consistency make Pirates a power


© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000

CRYSTAL RIVER -- There were better individual performances at Saturday's Gulf Coast Athletic Conference meet, and there probably are better overall swimmers in the local area.

But if you want to know why the Crystal River girls were able to win their sixth straight league title, look no farther than juniors Cherokee Boose and Rachel Carnahan.

Although they accounted for just one individual title, Boose and Carnahan are perfect examples of the formula that's allowed the Pirates to dominate the last six years.

"I don't think we've ever had a superstar," Crystal River coach Tim Holme said. "We've had some people who do very well with the talent they have, and some who've been successful enough to win a lot. But never superstars.

"We have a good, solid group of young men and women who work well together. And, collectively as team, they've been very successful," Holme said.

That they have. The girls locked up their sixth straight GCAC title, and the Crystal River boys followed by winning their fifth consecutive.

The question that persists, though, is how Crystal River does it.

How do the Pirates manage to find the swimmers every year, while the fortunes of their opponents rise and fall like an electrocardiogram? How is it that the Pirates always are able to replace seasoned stars, such as departed seniors Liz Garrick and Natalie Rockefeller, with budding champions like Boose and Carnahan?

It's a secret many area coaches would love to know.

"The coaches -- Dick Tangeman, Sandy Counts and I -- are students of the sport, and we work very hard to learn as much about swimming and the coaching of swimming," Holme said. "We try to teach the kids as best we can, and teach them how to best use the talents they have.

"I don't teach things today the way I taught them my first year, or even my fifth. We continually try to help the kids learn what the latest theory is on how best to swim.

"The kids pick up on that, and they try darn hard to do it right. That allows us to better maximize the talent have -- and we have fun, too," Holme said.

"What's really been important is that the emphasis has always been on, "Are you getting a little better?' not "Did you win?' I've always had the feeling that, if we got a little better every week, eventually we'd win."

But the key, as it is with most successful programs, is the athletes. Crystal River may not have the best swimmer in each event, but it almost always has a few at or near the top.

Take Carnahan and Boose. Carnahan finished in third place in the 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly Saturday. Booze won the 200 individual medley and took third in the 100 breaststroke. Both then combined to lead Crystal River to victories in the 200 freestyle relay and the 200 medley.

In meets like the GCAC, that translates into points -- and championships.

"The ability to have people finish third, fourth, fifth or sixth consistently is what makes the difference," Holme said.

"It's great if someone wins, but if your next is 10th, it doesn't do it. This team is more solid across the board than any we've had in the last four years."

Given the expected improvement of his young swimmers, the Pirates may be even stronger next year.

Boose is significantly shy of the school record in the 200 IM (held by Rockefeller) and 100 breast (held by Rockefeller) but is steadily closing.

In addition, after attending swimming camp this past summer, Boose has improved all of her strokes and can go in any event -- a big advantage in dual meets.

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