Plunging into the pools of different Sandy Springs neighborhoods, they swim against each other now to strengthen their team when they come together for the winter segment.
“Pretty intense competition,” rising sophomore swimmer Drew Caruthers said. “We’ll go at it and kind of laugh about it afterwards.”
Caruthers, along with rising juniors Harris Marmon and Ryan Young, swims out of Riverside. Rising junior Remy Faciglia represents Hammond Hills, and rising sophomore Larson Hodge swims out of Mountaire.
All were part of Riverwood’s state contingent last season and return to bolster the Raiders’ hopes in the winter. Riverwood finished in a tie for 28th place in February’s Class AAAA-A state meet out of 46 scoring teams.
The Sandy Springs neighborhoods already have competed against each other and still have meets left on the docket before the end of the month.
Practice sessions are good to keep a feel for the water, even if they’re not quite as intense as the rigors of varsity preparation during the school season.
“They’re pretty relaxed,” Caruthers said. “Definitely not as hard as Riverwood, but we have fun with racing and whatnot.”
Riverwood’s former swim coach, John McDonald, was recently hired away by Marist, and he’s been replaced by David Stewart. Stewart couldn’t be reached for comment, although no coach dislikes his swimmers putting in extra time in the pool.
“He’s going to inherit some pretty good talent,” Caruthers said. “We lost some really good seniors but we’ve got lots of state qualifying swimmers last year coming back.”
Caruthers was named Rookie of the Year his freshman year at Riverwood. He came in off an impressive summer, which include winning the 50-yard backstroke qualifying race June 23 at Garden Hills in Buckhead to move on to the Georgia Recreation and Parks State Meet.
He did it having broken his right arm less than four weeks earlier and getting last-minute permission to enter the race by a doctor.
The Raiders also will have the services of diver Walker Wheeler again this year. As a junior, Wheeler finished fourth in the state in the one-meter dive with a score of 390.8. It was an event dominated by local athletes, with Westminster’s Frank Love (508.55) first and Pace’s Harrison Moncino (479.5) second.
The Raiders like to show off their colors during the summer, a reminder that the work now could lead to big things for the Riverwood swim program later.
“We like to race and wear our Riverwood apparel,” Caruthers said. “It’s just for pride. But when we really come together for the season, that’s when the meets count.”