MIDLOTHIAN — In 18 days, Midlothian's Panthers and Midlothian Heritage's Jaguars will join area schools like Red Oak and Waxahachie in a quest to bring aquatic state gold to Ellis County.
The ISD's first tryouts will kick off at 6:30 a.m. on Aug. 21 at Main Street Gym, located at 1000 East Main Street in Midlothian.
"Because we're using Main Street gym, it's going to be a limited team for the first couple of years," said Jenny Suitor, the new head coach of Midlothian and Midlothian Heritage's swim team. "Those swimmers will mainly varsity but there may be some JV swimmers as well. They will compete in the same district and the same competitions and invitationals. It will also be the first time teams from both schools practice together."
The swim teams tryouts will begin Aug. 21 and end Aug. 25 for athletes that have submitted all required athletic paperwork and are enrolled in first-period athletics courses.
Midlothian High School athletes will practice from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. on Aug. 21 and 7:15 a.m. to 8:15 p.m. on Aug. 22. Potential Midlothian Heritage High School swimmers will try out between 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. on Aug. 23 and 7:15 a.m. to 8:15 p.m. on Aug. 24.
Information released by MISD stated the 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Aug. 25 session is by invite only.
On the first day of each school's tryouts, coaches will evaluate swimmers in the 100-yard freestyle event then have an opportunity to choose two strokes from the following disciplines: 50-yard freestyle, 50-yard butterfly, 100-yard breaststroke, 200-yard freestyle and 200-yard individual medley.
"We can teach technique, but if they have it that's a great addition to the team and the tryouts," Suitor said.
All strokes will be timed and evaluated for overall technique.
MISD's first-ever open aquatic tryouts follow the April 16 school board decision to bring the competitive swimming to its UIL 4A and 5A high schools. It was part of an enterprise that also brought soccer and wrestling programs to Frank Seale and Walnut Grove Middle Schools.
“There’s been an interest to bring it into the district since I’ve been here — about eight years,” MISD Athletic Director Steve Keasler, about the inclusion of swimming into the Midlothian Athletics Department in April. “It’s always been a priority to provide the program for both schools because I don’t ever think there we should provide for one and not the other. It will be another activity in the district that will provide a sense of accountability and discipline."
Per the May 2017 University Interscholastic League realignment, the teams will compete in Region 2 District 7-5A with Aledo, Burleson, Burleson Centennial, Cleburne, Crowley, Granbury and Godley High Schools.
Suitor added, despite being three weeks away from the assessments, there are already 70 to 80 swimmers in the area that have shown interest in coming out to the tryouts.
Rather than look externally for experienced swimmers to become the teams' first-year coaches, Midlothian ISD officials turn to Suitor, a former high school swimmer in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, and Christy Rawlings, a former Grand Prairie ISD swimmer, to guide the teams through their first season.
Suitor has run the ISD's athletics programs since Aug. 2013 and Rawlings, Who will coach for the first time, is a teacher in the district. Though it will be Suitor's first head coaching position, she has been an assistant with the track team for the past two years.
"I think we'll be competitive. There's a lot of talent here in Midlothian at the high school and middle school levels," Suitor said. "It going to be a welcome challenge building a program from the bottom up, but I think it's good that we can use the already existing talent that's in the district."
---- Marcus S. Marion is the sports editor of the Waxahachie Daily Light and Midlothian Mirror. He can be reached by phone at (469) 517-1456 or across social media platforms @MarcusSMarion.