In his first year coaching the North Putnam boys' and girls' varsity swimming teams, Mark Lehr is trying to bring a new attitude to the school

Monday, November 21, 2005

In his first year coaching the North Putnam boys' and girls' varsity swimming teams, Mark Lehr is trying to bring a new attitude to the school.

"Sometimes, in a small school like this, until you see success, you're not going to get people interested," he said.

Lehr is trying to change this.

"It's hard, but it's also enjoyable," Lehr said. "You get a lot of good from it."

There is a fresh air of excitement in North Putnam High School, with Lehr stepping in to take over head coaching duties. Although the team is lacking numbers this season, the Cougars return a group of seniors dedicated to success this season. North Putnam remains optimistic about the future.

"I'm new at this so I'm trying to get the high school going," Lehr said. "We may eventually work some of the middle school in with them and try to get them more interested."

Although North Putnam only has eight swimmers competing on the girls' team, the Cougars return a group of seniors committed to the team. Returning seniors for the girls' team include Shay Skene, Randi Alles, Chantal Johnson, Mallory Hittinger and Kayla Judy. Lehr could not say enough about their level of devotion.

"Those are some of my senior girls that have a good attitude and really stand out," he said.

The North Putnam girls' team faces off with Tri-West tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Tri-West. Along with the five seniors, Rachel Smith, Briana Smith and diver Jessica Biear will all hit the pool.

The boys' team is also short in numbers, but strong in will. The Cougars only have 11 swimmers on the boys' team, but are built on senior strength. Andrew Crosley, Chris Gamble, Cole Smith, Stephen Roberts, Shawn Stout, Marcello Sanzi and Lesley Stoudemire will all be swimming for North Putnam this season.

"Shawn seems to have a real good attitude about getting in the water and working," Lehr said. "He has really impressed me. And Marcello is an extremely good leader. He has been helping the boys in the water with their strokes."

The boys' team hits the water Tuesday, Nov. 29 at Southmont at 6 p.m. Others competing for the Cougars include Patrick Byrd, Kyle Smith, John Taggert, Brent McGaughey and diver Brian Rhoden.

Short on numbers, Lehr knows team wins will be hard to come by. However, he does hope to see some of his competitors work hard and advance in individual competition.

"My goal is to go to state," Lehr said. "I'd like to see maybe two-to-four kids make it state this year, or at least maybe get past the sectional."

While there may be a lack of numbers, there is no lack of optimism. Lehr is trying to instill a level of commitment that will breed success in the future. Thus far, it seems to be working.

"I'm impressed with their attitudes," Lehr said. "They're willing to do it. Swimming is 90 percent conditioning. There are a few things that I can help them with, but a lot of it is them, actually putting out the effort and having a good attitude about it."

In a couple of years, North Putnam may be shooting for a higher success.

"Kids that come out for swimming are usually very self-motivated," Lehr said. "They've got a good self-esteem. If they don't, swimming can create that."

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