The Mitchell Aquatic Club is back in the pool and beaming with confidence.
That's been the biggest change MAC coach Clyde Smith has noticed in his 65 swimmers as he gears up for his second summer in Mitchell.
It's partly due to race-pace training paying off in meets, with MAC swimmers showing "crazy consistency" on race splits, according to Smith. That will be on display this weekend in Brookings.
"Every time we enter the pool, I think we know we can compete with anyone we swim against," Smith said. "The confidence level is sky high right now."
MAC started practice in the first full week of May, splitting time between the indoor Mitchell Recreation Center and outdoor Mitchell Aquatic Center.
Smith said practices consisted of 75 percent conditioning and 25 percent race-pace training, but has now shifted to an even 50-50 split. However, three weeks from now, MAC will do race-pace training 75 percent of the time.
"Our whole race-pace training philosophy hinges on a shorter pool," Smith said. "We do a little more conditioning when we're in the long pool. ... Right now, we're going to start to swim fast for a lot of the practice."
Along with a meet in Brookings, MAC will also compete in Aberdeen on June 14-16 prior to its home invite on June 21-23 at the Mitchell Aquatic Center. The state championships are July 26-28 in Sioux Falls.
Smith views the MAC Summer Invite as another chance to help build his team's confidence.
"It's huge," Smith said. "For the kids that are just starting-to be able to sleep in their own bed and be able to race in front of family and friends. It helps build their confidence."
MAC will be led by a trio of college commits in Ethan Huber (St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota), Cailey Scott (Augustana University) and Jay Paulson (University of South Dakota).
However, Smith has also been pleasantly surprised by his middle schoolers' mindset and work ethic.
"We don't really hear much, 'Oh man, do we have to do that?' " Smith said. "... I don't know if it's necessarily a shift, but I think they're a little more vocal on, 'How fast do I have to go to be as good as I can.' They're buying into the program and really attacking what we're trying to do with them."
Smith doesn't view improving solely on better times, though. It's also about doing the little things, such as improved techniques.
"All we tell the kids is we want them to be better every time they get into the pool," Smith said. "Doesn't always have to be time, but always doing the little things we work on in practice like good streamlines and fast turns."