There were roughly a dozen swimmers on the roster and few, if any, had much experience.
Fast forward five years, and the River Ridge boys are starting to make some waves, and organizing the effort for the Knights has been Sarah Goodbread.
Not only the school’s swimming coach, but also its girls soccer coach, it makes for a couple of busy months for Goodbread as winter turns into spring, and both sports are in session.
“I coach swimming before school and soccer after school,” Goodbread said, “but I just enjoy both of them a lot.”
So far, the only thing she has found in common between the two sports is that she participated in both while in high school.
This season, the Knights showed the strength of their swimming program by finishing second behind Woodstock in the Cherokee County Invitational, which serves as the county championship.
“I was really excited with how our boys did throughout the season and especially at county,” Goodbread said. “I am proud of them. They did well.”
For helping push River Ridge to the next level, Goodbread is the 2013-14 Cherokee Tribune Boys Swimming Coach of the Year.
Over the years, the Knights have not only matured as individuals, but as a team. The roster has grown to include high school swimmers and those who compete year-round on club teams. Goodbread estimates a third of her swimmers also compete for club teams.
Etowah coach Virginia Richards said the development at River Ridge has certainly caught her attention.
For a long time, the Eagles were the top boys program in the county. At times, they would be challenged by Woodstock or Sequoyah, but until this year, River Ridge wasn’t on anyone’s radar. Woodstock was able to capture the boys county title, but instead of Etowah and Sequoyah battling for second, it was River Ridge that took him a runner-up trophy for the first time.
The Knights celebrated another first for the program when they made their presence known at the Class A-AAAAA state meet by sending more than a half-dozen boys to compete. While they didn’t come away with any state placers, Goodbread said that it will just be a matter of time for her young squad, which includes relays of nearly all freshmen.
“The future is looking really bright for our boys program,” she said. “Our boys relay team had three freshmen on the team that went to state. It’s exciting to see them qualify for state and do so well when they are so young. There is a big difference between 14-year-olds swimming and 17-year-olds swimming, so I think they will only get better and stronger.”
Among those setting new school records this season were Brian Oktavec, Greer Blackmon, the 200 medley relay of Josh Butler, Ivan Stavrev, Greer and Oktavec and the 200 free relay of Oktavec, Brian Biddiscombe, Butler and Blackmon.
Oktavec, who holds two individual school records, is just a freshman, while Blackmon is a junior with two individual records.
Goodbread said she doesn’t know what her next incoming class will bring, but she hopes to get a few talented swimmers added to the mix. Either way, she’s confident the Knights will be ready to compete when the new season begins.