Janesville Parker boys swim coach Eric Rhodes said competing in the Big Eight is the perfect tonic for his program.

Madison Memorial has won 10 of the last 13 Division 1 state titles, and the Big Eight usually places two or three teams in the top five.

Rhodes said the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages in competing in the rugged Big Eight.

“The bottom line is that we swim against the best in the state all season long,” Rhodes said. “That’s what I want because that’s what makes you better and pushes you.

“I’d much rather swim against the competition we do than not have a tough schedule at all.”

Parker finished a respectable 3-7 in the Big Eight last season but was hit hard by graduation.

The Vikings top returnees are senior captains Garrett Leach and Max Kisting, along with juniors Nate Warda and Cameron Odegaard. Seniors Ethan Griffith and and Jacob Schoeder are also being counted on.

“We lost a lot of talent but do have outstanding leadership this season,” Rhodes said. “The boys are kind of a quiet group, but they’re hard working.

“The best thing to happen to our program is that Derek Schneider is now an assistant coach and is going to have a real positive impact. I’m old school with my conditioning program, while Derek swam in college and has added a lot more current conditioning techniques. The guys seem to really like it.”

Leach will swim backstroke and butterfly, while Kisting switches from distance events in freestyle to the sprints.

Warda swam a 5:08 in the 500 freestyle last year at the sectional meet and will anchor the distance races.

Griffith is versatile enough to swim in any event, and Rhodes expects to plug him into the lineup wherever he is needed most.

Odegaard will swim the 200 individual medley and either the 100 breaststroke or 100 butterfly.

Rhodes, now in his 17th season, said the season-long goal is to always try to qualify an individual or two and a relay to state.

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