The Central Bucks West boys swim team is locked, loaded and ready for the season.
The Bucks sent a large contingent to the 2023 PIAA championships and return all but two swimmers this season.
“We’re ready,” said senior Connor Mangan, who will compete next year at Gettysburg. “I’m excited for this year.
“It’s really huge that we had so many kids at states last year. When I was a freshman, we didn’t have that many swimmers but my sophomore year we had some success and I think we’ve just been able to build on that.
“We have a lot of incoming freshmen who are really fast and the upperclassmen are really motivating them to step up to the next level.
“I think the stakes are higher this year. We’ve got a chance to really compete in the Suburban One League this year, and that’s hard to do with North Penn being in our division and them being so dominant. I think we’ll be competitive.”
Mangan competed in four events at last year’s state meet. As an individual, he reached the consolation final of the 200-yard individual medley, placing 14th with a time of 1:56.08 and he was also 21st in the 100 backstroke (53.09).
He also swam the second leg of the 400 freestyle relay for teammates Austin Wakefield, Blaise Hofmann and Derek Feldman, which reached consolations and ended up 14th in a school record time of 3:11.66.
The foursome of Mangan, Wakefield, Feldman and Hofmann competed in the medal heat of the 200 medley relay but were disqualified.
“I actually think that’s on me,” said Mangan, who swam the breaststroke leg. “I just took a short stroke. That’s a lesson learned. I won’t do that again. Last year was my first year at states and I was nervous. This year I think I’ll do better because I know what to expect.”
The medley relay is the first event of the competition, so the loss of a medal could have put a damper on the entire meet for CB West, but that didn’t happen.
“Luckily it didn’t impact how we swam the rest of the meet,” said Mangan, who owns the school record in the 500 freestyle with his time of 4:44.99, set in 2022.
Hofmann, Feldman, Mangan and Wakefield did set the school record of 1:34.88 in the medley relay in 2023.
Feldman, a junior, was 25th in the 200 individual medley (1:58.11) and 31st in the 100 breaststroke (1:00.82) last year while fellow junior Hofmann placed 11th in the 100 backstroke with a school record time of 51.12.
Hofmann also set school records last season in the 200 IM (1:55.98) and 100 butterfly (51.40).
“I had a wonderful season last year,” Hofmann said. “But I know what I’ve got to improve on and what I have to do better. I’m looking forward to improving the little things that will get me to that wall faster.
“As far as the medley relay, this year it’s a confusing topic. Having Austin Wakefield there the last couple of years was perfect. He was a gem. Over the past two years we’ve broken the school record, but I think it’s going to be tough to beat this year. We’ll try.
“I love that race. I’m a big relay guy, I prefer doing that. The excitement before that race really gets me going.”
The 200 freestyle relay of Wakefield, Kade Cimakasky, Max McCloskey and Hofmann finished 24th (1:28.24) last year.
“I really enjoyed states a lot,” McCloskey said. “There was a lot of pressure because there were so many top swimmers there and it was all new to me but I thought I swam well. I had a 104 fever while I was there so I was sick but I still felt like I did all right.
“Next time I think I’ll do better. My big event is the 500 and I didn’t get to swim it at states because I was one spot off, but I feel really good about it this year.
“I really love being on this team. I love the chemistry and that we’re all there for each other.”
The Bucks bid farewell to Wakefield, now swimming at La Salle, and Cimakasky, competing for Susquehanna.
“They were great leaders for us and I hope to follow in their footsteps,” Mangan said. “They were a great example for me.”
Sophomore Jimin Chung struggled at last year’s District One competition.
“I was sick, so I didn’t swim well,” he said. “Hopefully things will go better this year. Last year everything was new but this year I feel like I know what to do and what I want. I’m really looking forward to the next couple of years and seeing what my role is going to be on this team.
He is eyeing the open spot on the 400 freestyle relay.
“I think I have a chance at it,” he said. “That’s a goal for me this season, but we have a lot of good swimmers so we’ll have to see what happens.”