Any athletic program takes time to build a winner, even those programs established many years ago.

But for a team that started four years ago, it’s even harder into today’s high school sports landscape.

For head coach Rich Garnai and the East Clinton swim program, the time is now to begin looking at bigger steps of improvement.

“Now that the team is at least fours old, the team is no longer a new team,” said Garnai, who is in his fourth year as head coach. “We have enough experienced swimmers to focus on improving what we are doing as we go forward.”

There are 16 swimmers on the roster, with at least four newcomers, Garnai noted, as practice started. East Clinton will swim its home meets at the Highland County YMCA. There are eight girls and four boys returning to the program this year.

Garnai said Savannah Tolle, Molly Seabaugh and Elyon Hackmann are the top returning swimmers. He also noted Melanie Harner, Brooklynn Hamilton, Kaylyn Deaton, Emmy Chambliss, Teddy Murphy, Bo Frye and Jacob George “had good seasons last year to build on and earn more points for the team this upcoming season.”

Shane Lynch and Kenton Deaton were the top losses from last season along with Tanner Fooce, Jenna Stanley and Carah Anteck. That quintet impacted the program as much out of the pool with its strong attitude of working together as it did in the pool with actually results, Garnai said.

The coach is excited about the season. He looks forward to having first-year swimmer Barrett Beam on the team and with a growing roster, he is able to fill almost every event during a meet. Now, times must improve to reach their goals.

“This year’s team is very supportive of each other and will help each other grow throughout the season,” he said. “Our goal is to find what we need within ourselves to swim with speed and overcome our opponents in the pool.”