Adrian, Kirk guide young BHS swimmers

Big-name coaches continue to build program; season begins Tuesday.

When coach Justin Adrian walked into the Jarstad Aquatic Center before practice Wednesday, his team was huddled around a television, fixated on the glowing screen.

With keen eyes, they watched tapes of Olympic swimmer and Bremerton native Tara Kirk race to world-record times in the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke in 2006, her father, Jeff Kirk, a first-year assistant for the Bremerton boys swim team, looking on intently.

“I wanted them to see what a great turn looks like,” Kirk explained, using jargon some first-year Knight swimmers are just now learning. “I’m looking forward to this, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Kirk joins second-year coach Adrian, the brother of Olympian Nathan Adrian, and another first-year assistant, Chriss Kuykendall, to form a new-look Knight coaching staff hoping to establish a solid program at Bremerton High School.

Kirk and Adrian — two lofty names in the realm of Bremerton swimming — and Kuykendall, who has been a swim instructor of some sort since the mid-1980s, give the Knights an experienced three-person coaching staff.

“With them coming aboard, we’re building a foundation,” Adrian said of Kirk and Kuykendall. “It should only get better.”

Both Kirk and Kuykendall were assistant coaches for the girls team in the fall, but now turn their attention to the 23-member boys team, 12 of whom have never swam competitively.

“They’re very open to learning,” Kuykendall said, joking that the inexperienced swimmers sank more than they swam on the first day of practice. “But by the end of that first day, they were all excited.”

With Kirk and Kuykendall on the staff, Adrian said not only are the swimmers becoming faster and stronger in the pool, but he is becoming a better coach, receiving perspective he didn’t have prior to their arrival.

“I’ve seen tons of improvement with the kids they’re working with,” Adrian said. “When Jeff and Chriss talk, the guys listen. And that’s important.”

Adrian said he expects senior J.R. Ramos, who last year qualified for state in the 100-meter fly, to make a splash this year along with sophomore Mark Woolnough, who advanced to districts as a freshman in the 200 individual medley.

The goal for the remaining swimmers is simply to improve upon personal-best times, and Adrian has kept a running tally of each individual’s top marks.

“In high school swimming, the skills range so much. I’ve got (J.R.) who will go to state, then I’ve got a guy who can’t put his head in the water,” Adrian said. “We’ve had tons of drops (in times) across the board. This year we’re starting out a whole lot better than last year.”

“That’s one of the great things about swimming; you get up on the block and you’re a winner if you beat your own best time,” Kirk added. “For these guys, that’s going to be what we’re looking for this year.”

Kirk, who in partnership with the Bremerton Schools Foundation, supports third-grade swim lessons at Crownhill Elementary School where he, Tara and his other daughter, Dana, also a world-class swimmer, attended, said he is embracing the challenge of working with Bremerton’s swim teams.

“There are basic things that I’ve got to teach them,” he said. “It’s been really interesting.”

Adrian said while both Ramos and Woolnough should contend for individual berths to state, the team also will be in the running to qualify at least one — and probably two — relay teams.

Last year’s team sent relay squads to districts in three events, including the 200 medley and 400 free.

Senior Alex Milligan and sophomore David Pierce, both of whom won events at last year’s Olympic League divisional meet, figure to contend for individual postseason berths as well.

The team begins the season with a home meet against Port Angeles at 3 p.m. Tuesday before visiting Olympic at 3 p.m. Thursday.

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