Two winters ago, the Storm Lake High School boys swim team didn't even exist.
Fast forward to the 2007-08 season. The Tornadoes are far from state meet material, but they have made improvement - they knocked off Sioux City East for their lone win this season - and junior Peter Winterton is a big part of that.
"He swims any race there is and is close to the best in each of them," said first-year coach Roger Peterson of Alta. "But the others are catching up to him."
"(My freshman year) we hadn't had (a swim team) for like four years or so," Winterton said. "I talked to Lucas Droessler (a 2007 SLHS grad) last year, and we started to try to get one going. We talked to (athletic director) Rick Anderson to see if we could get one started, and it worked."
Winterton's favorite event is the 50 freestyle because, as he says, "it's just nice and short. Just get in and get out."
He's swum about every race but the 500 freestyle, and owns personal bests of 25.28 in the 50 freestyle, 58.59 in the 100 freestyle, 1:16.34 in the 100 breaststroke, 35.67 in the 50 backstroke, 34.12 in the 50 breaststroke and 31.15 in the 50 butterfly.
Track is Winterton's favorite sport but he says swimming has always been fun. A South Dakota native who moved here in the fourth grade, Winterton got interested in the sport from his older sister, Tessa. He joined the Whitecaps summer swim team shortly after moving to Storm Lake.
"Ever since I was little it's always been kind of a fun sport to be in. It's even (more fun) now that we're actually getting pretty competitive as a team," Winterton said. "We actually won a meet this year ... plus having Mike (Rodgers) and Casey (Schultz). They've been swimming with me since I moved here."
He said he's found similarities between swimming and track with regards to training. "If you want to get better at the 100, sprint 150," he said. "If you want to get better at (the) 400, sprint to 500."
"Peter's a good swimmer, he just has to work on his fine points," said Peterson, who considers Winterton's best shot at making state the 100 breaststroke or 100 freestyle. "Like keeping his hands together and all that stuff. Part of (his improvement) is that he thinks maybe I know something," Peterson cracked. "A better attitude and a desire to want to excel."
Winterton said it'd be tough for him to qualify for state.
"It's a possibility, but it would be hard because there's some swimmers that are just fantastic," he said.
He's enjoyed watching his teammates step up this year.
"Casey Schultz stepped right up in the fly. David Brady came in last year as a junior and he hadn't even (swum) before competitively," Winterton said. "Now he's a good, solid swimmer. Mike's always been solid. Nate Tucker came in this year and stepped it up huge."
Peterson also guided the girls team in the fall - he took over at the last minute when no certified coach would take the job. There are 17 swimmers out for the boys team, and Peterson would like to see that number increase to 25 by next season. He said he's seen a great deal of improvement from all his swimmers this season. Still, several obstacles lie in the way of building up the program.
"There are things that are needed in the swimming pool, and at some place along the line, if anybody wants to donate or help out with things that are needed in the pool, they can contact me," said Peterson, who added that he would consider coaching both teams again next year. "Our kids swim 10-12 hours a week during the season, whereas (kids from) other schools (with access to YMCAs, for instance) swim between 30-50 hours a week pretty much year round. It's getting in the water and learning the correct procedure, trying to swim strong but relaxed. Getting them in shape, because you use muscles up here that you never use in anything else.
"I hear the water yell back at us a lot: 'Quit hitting me!' We just pound the living daylights out of the water. But these young kids are trying. They really are."
The Tornadoes are at Des Moines Hoover today at noon, and will host Spencer and Sioux City Metro Monday, Jan. 14 at 6:30 p.m. at BVU's Finkbine Pool.