TROY — Tom Wyllie said he saw a flicker, a spark that could ignite the Troy swim program, on the final day of the 2011 season.
When the fall of 2012 officially began, there was a roaring fire of optimism, and it’s only grown bigger and stronger since.
“Our 200-yard medley relay team went to the state finals and broke a 19-year school record,” Wyllie explained of last season’s state championships. The team of Jacqueline Burke, Kristine Barlow, Tessa Lanzen and Lauren Dietz placed 12th in a time of 1 minute, 51.25 seconds. “Truthfully, it was the icing on what had already been a very sweet cake of a season. But I think it was there, with what that team did, that set in motion what we’re doing now and what we want to do in the future.”
Wyllie had 45 girls on his roster a year ago.
Right now, he’s working with nearly 60.
Interest within the school has exploded, partly because of how last year ended, and partly, he explained, because of the timing of this year’s Summer Olympics.
“I think there is a huge influence from the Summer Games,” Wyllie said. “The timing is perfect for when our season starts, and swimming is really highlighted on TV, so it certainly helped.”
The enthusiasm has turned to winning.
At press time, Troy was 7-2 in dual meets and 3-1 in the Oakland Activities Association White Division. The lone loss was a 93-92 setback to Birmingham Lahser.
“And that’s a team that absolutely annihilated us last year,” Wyllie said with a laugh.
He’s in just his second year with Troy, but Wyllie said he’s got a clear vision of exactly where he wants the program to go.
“When you look back in the early ‘90s, some of the top swimmers in the state were from Troy,” he explained. “That’s what this program was all about, and that’s where I want to take this. It started last year with a group of girls that went to states and broke a record. This year, we’re in the hunt for a division title, something that hasn’t happened here in 11 years. We’re taking baby steps, but that’s the direction we’re on.”
He knows keeping 60 girls on the team every year may be difficult, but said the type of swimmers he’s searching for outweigh the numbers of girls he may have.
“To me, this will never be a program open for high-end swimmers only,” he said. “My philosophy is, if you can swim, are committed and dedicated to this team and its success, there will always be a place for you.”