Q&A with first-year, head swim Coach Jennifer O’Neal

Sports Reports Sports

By R. Alan Richardson

sports editor

The following is an interview we had with the Morgan County High School’s new swim coach.

Question:  Tell us about your background.

Answer:  My swimming history began at Fulton County Dolphins when I was in 6th grade.  In high school i swam for Fayette County high school and competed at state in butterfly and IM every year. Swimming led me into a career as a  lifeguard and swim instructor from the time I was 15 to 22. I coached the boys and girls swim teams at Woodstock High School in Cherokee County and Adairsville High School in Bartow County.  I coached the Morgan County Marlins recreation swim team for two years.  We moved to Morgan County in 2008 for the great schools and home town community.  My husband, Sam and I just celebrated our 19 wedding anniversary. We have two beautiful daughters Peyton, a sophomore at MCHS and Aidan, a 6th grader at MCPS.

Question:  How are practices going in your first year? 

Answer:  We began practices on Oct 20th and it was a slow start.  The transition to the new high school, band, cross country and volleyball still in season brought in a small turn out.  However, we now have a small (20 swimmers), but strong team of committed swimmers and athletes.  When I coached the Marlins, Caroline Schlabach, John Cardwell and Will Paschal were on the team and it’s great seeing how they have grown and to be coaching them again.

Question:  How tough is it trying to meet the demands of teaching here and also coaching as well?

Answer:  I taught high school art for 17 years and this is my 5th year with primary/elementary school.   The most difficult part is getting adjusted to teaching in a new system and keeping up with my own children. I love the relationships built with these students and athletes and encouraging the lifetime sport of swimming.  It is a big commitment, but it is a passion.

Question:  Who are some of your returning and best swimmers? Who are your assistant coaches?

Answer:  We have a new freshman swimmer Rachel Wood.  Until now, she has been home schooled and swam year round with a team in Conyers.  Rachel and her family were drawn to Morgan county high school because of the variety of options for students to be involved in academically and athletics. Natalie Rogers is a year round swimmer and incredible strong.  John Cardwell is a returning Morgan county swimmer already committed to UGA were his sister Mary Claire Cardwell is also swimming on scholarship.  Patrick Kicklighter is also new to Morgan County schools.  He is a history teacher at the high school and will also be coaching track.  He is new to swimming, but not to coaching and is picking up easily.

Question:  What are your expectations for this year? How much do you know about our region/area opponents and how do you think the team will do?

Answer:  My expectations are that the swimmers be committed to practices, meets and supporting one another.  Swimming is similar to track and cross country, athletes are competing against themselves but also for the team.  I expect each swimmer to be aware of their personal swimming pace and to individually improve at each meet.  A second shaved off a previous time is an accomplishment. At big meets, I want swimmers to focus on their own personal times and at smaller meets how they can gain points for the team.

My knowledge of the region and opponents is minimal.  Susan Courchaine, the previous swim coach and Kathryn Cardwell, our booster club president, have been tremendously helpful in guiding ad supporting this year’s team..  Our team is small, but powerful, committed, responsible, articulate group of athletes and we are grateful to call them the MCHS swim team.  Everything a coach could want.

We welcome Coach O’Neal to the MCHS coaching staff and wish the team much success in the 2018-19 season.

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