Dedication, Athleticism Hallmarks Of OHHS Swim Team

Senior Kelsi Berry was the only swimmer competing for Ottawa Hills during her first two years of high school, but she picked up a few teammates along the way to graduation this spring.

Berry, a first-team All-Toledo Area Athletic Conference (TAAC) basketball player, competed with then-freshman Caroline Lathrop a year ago, and the Bears added freshmen Addie Eichbauer and Emma Stout to this year's squad. Lathrop also played on the Bears' basketball team this winter.

"It is unorthodox (with only four girls)," said Kathy Lathrop, who coaches the team along with Wendy Vischer. "It's a very small team and the girls practice with the Greater Toledo Aquatic Club (GTAC). Kelsi, Caroline and Emma all swam for the GTAC before high school, and Addie grew up swimming at the YMCA, so all four girls had competitive swimming experience before joining our Ottawa Hills team."

For the first time ever, the Green Bears were able to put together a relay team to compete at invitationals. Caroline Lathrop (backstroke), Stout (breaststroke), Berry (butterfly) and Eichbauer (freestyle) competed in the 200 medley relay.

"They swam the relay at the couple of invitationals we participated in," coach Lathrop said. "We were competitive with many of the teams from much bigger schools. They likely would have qualified for districts if all four girls had been able to swim at sectionals."

Berry and Caroline Lathrop had to miss the sectional swim meet due to a conflict with the basketball postseason.

"Caroline swam at sectionals and districts last year," coach Lathrop said of her daughter, who also competes in the 100 backstroke, 50 freestyle, and 100 free. "She is very strong in the backstroke. She qualified for districts (in 2015) and placed 10th. She didn't practice really at all last year, but she does swim in the offseason. She gets right back in pool after spring break and played club water polo with St. Ursula last fall."

Berry, who plays for the Bears' tennis team in the fall, specialized in the backstroke and 50 and 100 free. Berry only came to one swim practice all season while devoting her time to basketball and leading Ottawa Hills to their third straight TAAC championship.

"She's just an athlete," Lathrop said. "She didn't really practice last winter and was still our fastest swimmer at meets. She can get in there and blow everybody away. She does basketball and then comes to meets and qualifies for finals. She's just a natural and has always been a really good swimmer. If she focused on that, no doubt she would be a state-level swimmer."

Stout, who plays field hockey in the fall and lacrosse in the spring, specialized in the 200 individual medley and 100 free. Eichbauer, who plays field hockey, swam the breaststroke and 50 and 100 free. Stout and Eichbauer both competed at the sectional meet this season.

"Neither one of those two play a winter sport, so they practice with the GTAC four days a week," Lathrop said. "They both got better (during the season). Both of them have developed as good breaststrokers, which is a difficult stroke to perfect. They consistently attended practices. Emma worked hard at practices and Addie really improved her breaststroke this year."

Lathrop said she hopes having four swimmers this season will lead to more swimmers at Ottawa Hills in the future.

"This was a great group of kids," she said. "Good camaraderie. They created this team, so they feel a lot of ownership. They started something great. Hopefully, other kids will follow."

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