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New SCHS swim team coach Jean Paul LaVertu is excited to get his team started.
“I’ve been very impressed with the team’s technique and skill level,” he said. “Obviously they’ve been very well coached in the years past. I’m still learning about them and trying to find out who to use where and when. But I’m having fun figuring everything out.”
LaVertu said he’ll know more after the team gets going in the regular season, and he won't have to wait long – the AquaRockets host the Rocket Relays on Nov. 14.
But building the program shouldn’t be a problem. The new coach doesn’t have to start from scratch.
“I’m not used to having so many USS swimmers like I have from the Sharks,” he said. “It’s great to have some top-level swimmers that are getting more time in the water to build around. But we have some kids from the high school that don’t swim USS, that are very good and will compete for spots.”
Since this is his first year with the SCHS team, LaVertu is leaning on some his more experienced swimmers to help guide him with the team.
“We’ve had a few kids that have really stepped up,” he said. “Rachel Shannon has been a tremendous asset. She’s really shown a great amount of team leadership. She’s one of those kids that has really impressed me a lot in and out of the pool.”
LaVertu also noted Chloe Crumpton as a younger swimmer that’s growing into a leadership role. On the boys’ side, the coach noted Jake Gibson and Alex Workman as two that lead by example with work ethic and dedication.
While this is LaVertu’s first season with the Rockets, he’s no stranger to Shelby County or Region 3.
As the coach at Meade County since 1999, LaVertu has battled the AquaRockets.
When Meade County was left without a coach just before its inaugural season, LaVertu stepped into the position.
“I built that program from the ground up and just fell in love with the sport,” he said.
Now, after about three years of trying to land in Shelby County, LaVertu got the SCHS job just before the school year.
“My wife has family in the area, and we’d been trying to get here,” he said. “When this PE job [at Simpsonville] came open, I jumped at it.”
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To win the region, LaVertu said, you have to go through Woodford County. Shelby finished a combined third last year, the girls were second and the boys seventh.
“I told the kids that the main reason I came here was to compete for region titles every year,” he said. “All the pieces are here. Our main goal is to take that region title from Woodford County – it’s been a long, long time since that’s happened.”
“The girls have the depth and skill to make a big impact,” he said. “They finished second last year, but they’re closer than anybody to knocking Woodford County out of the top spot in the region.”
“The goal with the boys is build the numbers and depth,” he said. “We have some of it, but it’s going to take some time. I definitely think they can move up in the region, though. I’d love to see them in the top five and competing for a title year-in and year-out.”