Charlotte Country Day swim coach Bob Peterson has a lot of sayings - "Bobisms," his swimmers call them - that he likes to use to motivate his team.
"If it were meant to be easy, it wouldn't be hard," is an example. They may be simple and they may be silly, but they have a greater purpose. The head coach, in his 13th year, wants to give his swimmers that extra push to succeed.
"He's such a great motivator, but a positive motivator, so you want to do well for Bob and for the whole team," said senior girls' swimmer Sam Frost. "He's going to motivate you in a positive way, and I think that's so important. It helps the team feel like everyone contributes."
Last year, the Buccaneers swim team came together to sweep both the CISAA conference and state meets, something Peterson said no team has done since he started coaching. It also was the first time Country Day had won both the boys' and girls' state championships in the same year.
This year, the girls won the conference meet again and the boys placed second. As Country Day prepares for this year's N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 3A championship Feb. 21, it would be easy for the Bucs to feel like the favorites again, but that's not the case.
Country Day lost 12 seniors from last year's team, including top performers Zane Turpin, Andrew Stranick, Graham Hunt, Jourdan Cline and Katie Nelson.
"The likelihood of doing something like (repeating as state champions) would be slim if I brought everyone back," said Peterson. "But losing so many kids, it's going to be very hard."
The Bucs still have plenty of talent.
The girls are led by seniors Frost - a strong 200 and 500-meter freestyle swimmer - and Villanova signee Hayden Bumgardner, who Peterson says can do every stroke and excels in the individual medley. They are part of a class that hasn't lost a regular season dual-meet in four years.
After a close win against Charlotte Latin in the regular season, the girls are confident going into the postseason but aren't banking on last year's success. "It's a new year, new season - anything can happen," said Bumgardner.
Peterson said Bumgardner always swims better at the state meet, dropping several seconds off her time, and he expects her to do it again.
"I just get really excited and I build off all the energy from everybody at states," she said. "It's one of my favorite meets of the year."
The boys' team is led by juniors Tripp Mulligan, a strong sprinter, and Eddie Mansius, whose strength is the 100-meter backstroke. The boys have struggled more in dual meets this season, losing to Providence Day, Latin and Greensboro Day, teams Peterson said are some of the strongest in the state.
Despite being two-time defending champions, the boys feel like underdogs going into the state meet.
"We definitely feel like we're an underdog and I think we love that," said Mulligan. "That's what our mentality has been these last few years. Being an underdog and getting the win is one of the best feelings in the world."
Peterson said that winning a state title for the boys will be tougher this year, but he knows that at the state meet anything can happen.
"I think we have a shot. You always have a shot," he said. "You can capture lightning in a bottle. It's not guaranteed, but it can happen."
Even with the team's success last year, Peterson makes sure the Bucs never overlook an opponent.
"One of the most important things is that we respect every team and their ability," said Mulligan. "That's one thing Bob's really good at is that he never overlooks anybody."
As the Bucs ready for the state meet, swimmers will look to Peterson for motivation. And maybe a new saying.
"I feel like we're in a good place. We've really come together this season," said Mansius. "It's all about trusting Bob. We have to trust that he knows what he's doing."
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