Roseville High boys swimming ends great season

By: Zachary Manning | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published April 2, 2021

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ROSEVILLE — If you add up all the adversity the Roseville High boys swimming and diving team faced this season, you’d never expect them to have much success.

Originally, there wasn’t going to be a season, due to the program not having a coach. However, just days before the season was supposed to start, Mark and Jeremy Baldes decided to take the reins and lead the team.

Still, the struggles continued, as the challenge was to now spread the word about the team being in action. It took some time, with the brothers calling students who were on last year’s team, posting flyers and doing what they could to get the word out.

Eventually, there were enough kids to field a team, and the Panthers hit the ground running. Still, there were major issues to figure out. On top of competing during the COVID-19 pandemic and trying to field a team, Mark and Jeremy didn’t have swimming backgrounds and weren’t quite sure how the season would go.

However, in an effort to give the student-athletes the best experience possible, they learned as much as they could, asking for help from upperclassmen on the team, former athletes and coaches.

“It came down to it where nobody was going to do it, and there just wasn’t going to be a season,” Mark Baldes said. “I talked to my brother, and I said, ‘We really just can’t let it happen.’ If my son was a student and wanted to swim or if I was a student and wanted to swim, we put ourselves in all those different shoes, and we made it work.”

Heading into the first meet, there was still uncertainty about how everything would shake out. That was until the Panthers found themselves in a tight meet, with the last race determining the winner.

If the Panthers won the 400-yard freestyle relay against Warren Fitzgerald, they would open the season with a victory. As fate would have it, Roseville’s relay team touched out ahead of Fitzgerald, and the Panthers found some momentum.

“That just started everything. That validated the effort that we were putting in and gave the boys hope that this isn’t just going to be a season — this is going to be something special,” Mark Baldes said.

With an opening-season win in hand, the Panthers found some confidence. They kept winning and eventually finished the 2021 campaign with just one loss, taking home a share of the Macomb Area Conference Green Division championship.

It was the first in program history and something no one could’ve expected prior to the start of the season. From having no program to winning a championship is something the team will never forget.

“It’s like the best feeling for a coach that we were able to do that for a group of young men that could’ve done it but wouldn’t have had the opportunity, because nobody was going to be able to coach,” Mark Baldes said. “It’s worth a lot more than if we had already planned to coach and then did it.”

As they saw the kids having fun and the wins kept coming, Mark and Jeremy continued to grow as coaches in the sport. They even found themselves talking to each other about swimming outside of the pool, which is something they never would have thought.

Even though they know they aren’t the top coaches in swimming, they enjoyed themselves and could see a vision for the future of the program.

“We’re super passionate about it,” Mark Baldes said. “The underclassmen will have a year under our coaching, so they’ll add on to what they’re able to do, and I go, ‘Man, you never know — we could hold onto this for a couple years.’ It’s definitely in the discussion about next season.”