HIBBING — The Hibbing High School girls swimming team has won three-straight Class A titles, but is a fourth one in the cards?
Only time will tell, but the Bluejackets will set out to try and four-peat today when they open the 2018 season by taking part in the Duluth East Quad, beginning at noon at the Duluth East High School Pool.
Hibbing coach Mike Veneziano knows it won’t be easy, but he expects his team to be in the hunt come November.
“With the caliber of teams we’ve had the past two years, with this group of seniors, they were definitely role players at the time,” Veneziano said. “As the seasons have progressed, it’s their job to step up and make the advancement to the teams’ objectives.”
Those seniors include, Nyah Adams, Anna Engelson, Sara Furlong, Anikka Mattonen, Mary Peterson, Maddy Riley, Lindsey Tario, Michelle Tario and Maria Wangensteen.
“The way I look at it, with this current group of seniors, there’s no superstars among them,” Veneziano said. “They’re good athletes and hard workers. What we have to do is they have to do a good job of leading the team and keeping them cohesive.
“What it comes down to is if it comes down to taking the highest-caliber athletes or a group that could buy into a team concept and lead, I would take the group-orientated leaders any day of the week.”
What Veneziano wants out of his seniors is the ability to build trust on this team
“It’s a continuum,” Veneziano said. “You can always measure somebody’s talent, but trust is much harder to measure. The only thing that measures trust is time. Only time will tell how much you can trust another person.
“There’s no way to measure that immediately. What it call comes down to is I’m looking at a team concept. The best organizations in the world won’t function well with talent and a low level of trust. A high-functioning trust level can overcome less given talent.”
With that said, don’t think the Bluejackets don’t have any talent. They do.
“I’m not saying we’re not talented,” Veneziano said. “I believe this crew I’m working with is reliable and has a high level of the trust factor. I can’t prove that, so I have to go on instinct. I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am.”
The junior class consists of Isabel Cameron, Claire Furlong, Makenna Kriske, Meghan Minne, Astrea Nelson-Jones, Cady Rancourt, Ryanne Sauer and Natalie Skorich.
Maddy Clusiau, Shelby Hughes and Meghan Savage make up the sophomore class, and Bella Alaspa, Courtney Massich, Ali Raukar, Addie Rikkola, Riley Story and Alison Trullinger comprise the freshman class.
Eighth graders Geli Stenson and Madison St. George round out the team.
“This is going to be a true buy in of the team,” Veneziano said. “Leaders require a handful of things, and one of those components is followers. That’s the role they play. It doesn’t matter how gifted any team is, the single purpose of the team is what makes the team strong.
“To paraphrase Herb Brooks, ‘The reason that all-star teams fail is that they rely solely on the talent of the individuals.’ To overcome that, you need to work as a group.”
The one part of the team that will be strong is the diving, with Adams, Mattonen, Clusiau and Chloe Price.
“That diving crew was the highest scoring team in the section last year,” Veneziano said. “We only graduated one of the four, and we have two young ones coming up. That will be one of our strong suits.”
As for the swimming portion of it, Veneziano can’t commit as to what his strongest events will be.
“I won’t know that until I put some combinations together, both individual and relays.” Veneziano said. “The materials are there to work with. I have plenty of tools in the tool box, but I’m not sure what the task is yet.”
Will Veneziano find enough talent and depth to win the 7A title again?
“I expect a great season,” he said. “I like our attitude and work ethic. We can grow as competitors. Our performances will get steadily better throughout the season because we’re willing to do the work.
“Statistically, I would consider us an underdog to Mesabi East. It’s always nicer to be the hunter than the hunted. Instead of having a target on our back, it’s off of our back. Now, it’s a what are we willing to do to overcome it?”
Hibbing will be put to the test right away in this Quad, as East, White Bear Lake and Bloomington Jefferson are all Class AA teams.
“The fact that were amongst a group of heavy hitters, three good Class AA teams that will have some talented swimmers, we’re going to face tough competition,” Veneziano said. “How can we handle that issue?
“Are we going to perform the best we can, or are we going to worry about who we’re competing against? The only person they’re obligated to do better than is yourself. All we’re trying to do is establish a baseline to start from.”