The Norwalk swimming teams are gearing up for the Northern Ohio League championships Jan. 31 at Ashland University.
After a two-week layoff, the Truckers have been busy in the pool with four events over the last 18 days in 2009.
"The season is progressing,'' first-year coach Danielle Hart said. "The kids' times are starting to go down. It's great to see the expression in their face once they've seen the clock and accomplished the goal.
"We want to win, but it's about the times. Right now, their times are improving and the teams are doing well. We are looking at the NOL.''
Norwalk's boys' team has come away with wins over NOL foes Galion and Tiffin Columbian over the last two weeks.
The victory against Columbian was at the Ernsthausen Aquatic Center.
"They're more comfortable in their own pool,'' Hart said. "They know the temperature, they know the block and I think that contributed to the win."
Leading the boys' team are juniors Alex Dewitt and Cody Mackall and sophomore Jared Smith.
"Alex is a great distance swimmer,'' Hart said. "It's also great to put him on the relays, because he can kick it up in sprints as well. Cody has done real well in the 50 free and backstroke. He's finally got a 25 (seconds) in the 50 and Jared has improved tremendously. Jared has taken more than a minute off his 500-freestyle time.''
But Hart has also been impressed with the entire team, including the freshman.
"They're doing a great job, especially Amos Albright and Ryan Cook,'' Hart said. "Amos and Ryan are pulling 26 in the 50 free. We're expecting big things from the underclassmen.''
For the girls' squad, senior Brenna Ballard and juniors Sarah Bogen and Marissa Souter have progressed.
"Brenna is one of our leading scorers in the 500 free and backstroke,'' Hart said. "She's been real consistent. Sarah has done well. In the last meet, she took 15 seconds off her 500 time. She's an awesome IMer. She's a great multi-event swimmer. And Marissa has improved. She's really coming out of her shell.''
A former swimmer at Norwalk, Hart knows the ins and outs of the sport.
"I know what they're going through,'' she said. "I've seen it through both perspectives."
Wednesday's match against Sandusky St. Mary Central was the final tune-up before the NOL.
"A couple of them are aiming for records,'' Hart said. "They want to achieve their records. Brenna is shooting for the 500 record. She's seven seconds off."
At last season's NOL championships, Norwalk's boys' team finished third behind both Shelby and Galion. The Lady Truckers were second after Shelby.
"The boys' have a chance (to win the NOL championships) because the numbers are up,'' Hart said. "We have 21 boys. We have great swimmers and a ton of great athletes.
"Numbers are not on our side for the girls. We only have four or five seniors. This is a stepping stone. It's hard to make up three relays, but the girls have been improving.''
Hart is stressing team.
"If you get a personal best, that scores points for the team,'' she said.
The sectional, district and state tournaments follow the NOL.
The sectional tournament is Feb. 13 and 14; district Feb. 18 to 21 and state Feb. 27 and 28 at the C.T. Branin Natatorium in Canton.