ADAMS — Nearly a week after the South Jefferson boys swimming program’s historic victory over Watertown, Spartans head coach Paul Gaede’s voice is still raspy from all the yelling and coaching he did.
South Jefferson was the first team to knock off Watertown in a Frontier League meet in 11 years. The Spartans are a relatively new program as they started in 2007, and it was the first time South Jefferson had beaten the perennial “A” Division leaders.
“It’s definitely an exciting feeling to do this as a senior,” South Jefferson’s Justyn St. Croix said. “It’s great to do this as a young program.”
Nolan Shelmidine set an individual school record in the 100-yard backstroke and was part of the record-setting 400 freestyle relay with Garrett Fuller, Justyn St. Croix and Thomas King. Shelmidine turned in a time of 1:00.42 in the backstroke and the Spartans posted a 3:36.04 time in the relay.
Shelmidine joked that he could hear coach Gaede instructing his team despite being in the water where the sound is muffled.
“He was really pushing us,” Shelmidine said. “You can’t really hear much in the water, but the little bits you do hear are like ‘man, he’s really believing in us.’”
Gaede and his team were tracking the meet’s score as it progressed and the team’s hopes grew as the meet progressed. South Jefferson had come close to winning in a Dec. 5 meet that Watertown claimed, 94-89. However last week, the Spartans hung close and were able to make a late charge to win.
“Towards the end, I was thinking about who needs to win what events and I was thinking we actually could do this,” senior Cole Bennett said.
The victory has brought many of Gaede’s former student-athletes out of the woodwork. He received numerous congratulatory texts from coaches and former Spartans swimmers.
“A lot of these guys that texted me, I hadn’t heard from in years and I’m amazed they still have my number,” Gaede said. “It’s awesome to hear from them.”
This swim season has been one of the best in the young program’s history with an 8-1 mark overall and 6-1 in the league. Many of the team’s swimmers swim with other teams, like the Watertown YMCA Blue Sharks and the Mexico Tiger Sharks.
“There’s a lot of guys that put in more time after season, before season and all summer,” Gaede said.
South Jefferson is hoping that this won’t be one-time moment and the team is looking forward to the Frontier League meet Jan. 25 at Watertown. The Spartans know there are plenty of other challengers for the league crown. The Spartans swimmers are aware that the Cyclones already have qualifiers for states like Nate Carlos (200 individual medley, 50 freestyle).
“Lowville and Watertown are the two closest to us, so I’m pretty confident we can do well,” senior Lucas Gillette said. “We did beat them at the Indian River Invitational.”
The Spartans also have qualified many of their swimmers for the Section 3 Class B meet that will feature tough teams like New Hartford, Mexico and Fulton among others. The Class B meet will be Feb. 13 at Nottingham High School in Syracuse.
Depth has also been key to the Spartans’ success. The varsity team has 36 swimmers on the team and that gives them an advantage over smaller teams that may have to use swimmers for many events.
“The numbers absolutely have helped,” Bennett said. “With how points work, you can put these extra people in other events and squeeze out more points.”
The Spartans feature seven experienced seniors on the squad but are optimistic for the future. Their modified program boasts more than 30 swimmers and they can use that depth to their advantage.
“If we can get all those kids to come up to varsity, that will be huge,” Shelmidine said. “Those kids are the future of the program and they’ll be the ones to break my records.”