In 1995, Millard West High School opened in Omaha Nebraska, and with a new school came a new swim team. Tracy Stauffer was the first head coach, and under his guidance the Wildcats became a force in Nebraska swimming, with the girls winning five state championships, including four in a row from 2009 to 2011, plus another one in 2013.
Stauffer stepped down a couple years ago, but long-time assistant coach Jamie Bowcott took over the team. Bowcott credits a strong group of other longtime team coaches, supportive parents and upperclassmen, as well as the fact that he and Stauffer, whom he counts as a mentor and a friend, still keep in touch, for a smooth transition, and the Wildcats haven’t missed a beat.
Last season, the boys team finished 3rd at the Nebraska state championships. Sophomore Mateo Miceli finished in the top-8 in the 100 back and 100 fly, has school records in both those events, and should challenge for state championships in those events here in just a few weeks. On the girls’ side, senior Payton Hall, a Northern Iowa commit, will be aiming to make two A-finals at states for the 3rd-straight year.
Swimmers take pride in hard work, and the Wildcats are no exception. All season long you’ll find the Millard West swimmers grinding it out in the pool before and after school and adding in running and weight lifting during drylands, as well. Bowcott described one set that the team likes to do often to check their progress:
10 x 200’s on 3:30 where the odds are fast, evens are recovery. Sometimes we mix in choice of strokes, sometimes we add in fins, but it’s always been a good measurement to see where the kids are at. We also do 6 x 50’s x 3:00 blast where the athletes try to maintain the same average on all 6…We have always taken pride in being one the hardest working teams in the state and we always like to see that pay off in February at the state meet.
For the Wildcats, a commitment to hard work physically is matched by a commitment to emphasizing the mental and social aspects of the sport as well, something that Bowcott points to as a big part of the reason for the Wildcats’ success.
We really stress is the mental side of swimming and diving. The kids work hard in the water, but if their minds aren’t right, these kids won’t reach their potential. Tracy was a psychology teacher so I watched and learned how important focusing on the mental side of swimming is. It would be risky to these kids if they were physically ready but weren’t able to reach their goals because their heads got in their way so we try to keep the kids positive, focused, and mentally strong.
Additionally, the Wildcat swimmers engage in your normal high school team activities, including themed dinners, secret swimmer activities, the occasional good-natured prank, and whatever else helps promote team camaraderie and cohesion. For the coaching staff, it’s all part of making sure that being a swimmer is more than just sets and times and technique, but rather it’s about learning from experiences that will help teenagers develop habits and attitudes that will help them for the rest of their life. As Bowcott put it,
More than anything, I want as many athletes as possible to finish their season with a smile and a sense of pride in their performance. There’s nothing more heart-breaking as a coach than to see a hard-working swimmer disappointed with their final race – especially a senior – so to see as many athletes as possible taking pride in their performance is something that we’d like to see. If everyone takes care of their individual goals, the team goals will fall into place as well.
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