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Heather Bureau, left, instructs swimmers Wednesday at Mitchell High School.

When Heather Bureau was hired to teach 11th and 12th grade English at Mitchell High School, she said she was immediately drawn to the swim program.

The only problem was the Marauder girls’ swim team had to take a hiatus in 2017-18 due to lack of interest.

Enter Bureau.

In September she was approached by athletic director Al Everett about bringing the program back, and she immediately went to work. Feeling out interest, hosting open swims, making countless calls, all to try to get the program up and running again.

“It was a lot of phone calls and a lot of digging deep,” Bureau said. “The biggest thing to get over from last year was definitely making sure the girls are eligible with physicals. It took a couple weeks but at the end of the day we were able to get everything set up and started.”

Bureau said she had about 14 total athletes signed up for the team, but after a few dropped out due to time commitments, the Marauders will have nine committed athletes in the pool this season.

But just two of those athletes have competitive swimming experience.

Senior Mariana Pascual competed as a freshman and sophomore for Mitchell, and junior Jessica Plummer transferred into the district from Denver South, where she competed on the swim team.

The rest, according to Bureau are starting from scratch.

“We had one girl on the first day of practice she was terrified of the deep end, but she conquered that fear the first day and she got in the water,” Bureau said. “And some of the girls are so new we had to teach them to put their faces in the water. It’s a really slow process because I’ve never started a program before, so it’s really challenging sometimes too to take a step back and be patient.”

Pascual and Plummer, the team’s experienced veterans, are helping Bureau teach and motivate.

“It’s kind of challenging because everyone is just learning techniques and the strokes, but it’s fun to build it up from the bottom,” Plummer said. “It’s challenging but I think it will be really fun and a great learning experience for everybody.”

Thankfully the team has time to adjust and learn technique before their first official competition. Bureau said the team’s first scheduled meet is against Sierra in January, but could start competing as early as next week in invitationals.

“Right now the schedule is totally up in the air,” Bureau said, explaining that the athletic department is still calling schools to see if they could get meets scheduled. "We could be potentially competing next week but I don’t know if our suits will be in and there are a whole bunch of other hoops to jump through."

But before they start competition Bureau said it's important for the new girls to understand what a real meet is like.

“St. Mary’s uses our pool, and they have a home meet next Wednesday. So if we’re not competing the girls are going to come and watch and see how an actual meet is run,” Bureau said.

Pascual, who was the co-captain of the Mitchell swim team as a sophomore, said she was excited to get back in the pool, but after being off for over a year and a half, she’s getting back into shape with everyone else.

“I had the experience my freshman and sophomore year so I was excited to get on it my junior year, but obviously there wasn’t enough girls,” Pascual said. “So coming back after a year and a half not swimming it was hard. I was out of shape and a lot of the other girls didn’t know how to swim so it was like starting all over. It was hard - even for me already having experience it was hard - but we’re working and coach is helping, we’re getting there.”

While the team continues to work toward its first official competition, Bureau said above all, she is encouraged by her athlete’s attitude.

“One of the things I definitely enjoy about my small group of girls is that they’re all so positive with each other,” Bureau said. “It’s sometimes hard to see that in a high school setting, and I think this is a really good thing to start right away on a team. It’s great to see girls empowering each other.”

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