The Cullman Swim Team is ready to make a splash.

Alison Norris’ Catfish got its 2013 campaign underway on Tuesday afternoon with a dual-match against the Boaz Barracudas. The coach, like the rest of her 110-kid roster, has been ready for this summer’s meets for quite some time.

“Everyone was looking forward to today,” she said. “We had our intramural tournament last week to gauge our times and get back into the swing of things. Everyone was itching to get back to competition, though.”

Of Norris’ 100-plus participants, 30 are donning swimming caps for the first time in regular competition. With nine meets slated for the summer, the coach said she has seen a fair share of talent coming up the ranks.

“The young swimmers have been doing very well,” Norris said. “Some of them looked like they have swam in the past. They just have natural talent or they’ve been teaching themselves by watching Michael Phelps swimming in the Olympics.”

It’s not all young bloods for the Catfish, however, as they return three veteran swimmers from teams past. Those include Michelle Pilcher, who currently attends Berry College in Georgia, and recent high school graduates Bennett Glasscock and Chris McAlpin, both heavy contributors from recent seasons.

Norris said the leadership the trio brings to the younger swimmers is invaluable over the course of a year.

“I think it’s very important that they are returning,” she said. “Michelle because she is just such a great leader. She helps me out a lot with the younger kids especially.

“Christopher is one of our team captains this season. Both he and Bennett have been great for us in competition.”

Like Pilcher this season, both McAlpin and Glasscock have one year of eligibility remaining should they choose to return next season for the Catfish.

Norris, like any other coach, said she would be thrilled to have such heralded swimmers return for one last ride.

“If they leave next year, we will miss them for sure,” she said. But I’m really hoping they come back if they want to.”

With a roster mixed with talent both young and old, Norris is rather optimistic her team will have what it takes to build on last season’s runner-up finish at the state level.

The Catfish will need to do well at the district meet in Guntersville before they host this year’s state meet. Norris is hoping her team can leapfrog past nemesis Scottsboro in the small-city division, a team that’s finished just ahead of Cullman each of the past two seasons.

“We are generally very close to them,” she said. “We should be right back in that situation. I think this team is progressing in a very good way. We’ve got some great coaches with some good plans to help them get to the next level. We hope we can do well in our meets. I think it’ll be a great season.”

% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at jwinfrey@cullmantimes.com.

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