At the start of the 2019-20 season, Shawnee boys swimming had something no other team in South Jersey: three returning seniors who were named All-South Jersey one year ago.
Jack Artis, Kyle Hare and Andrew Taylor may be the best one-two-three combo in South Jersey. All three swam with the best at the 2019 NJSIAA Meet of Champions, with each of them qualifying for “A” finals.
Artis finished fifth in the 100-yard breaststroke and seventh in the 200-yard individual medley, Taylor came in fifth place in the 500-yard freestyle, and Hare finished eighth in the 200-yard freestyle.
Congrats to Kyle Hare advancing to the MOC! https://t.co/om1LPvDqQk
— Shawnee HS Athletics (@SHSRenegades) March 2, 2019
The Shawnee trio are more than just high school teammates. Artis, Hare and Taylor also swim for the same club team, South Jersey Aquatic Club in Voorhees, after Artis and Taylor opted to change club teams in the spring.
“I think it’s cool,” Artis said. “At practice we’re racing against each other and we’re competing against each other, but then at meets we’re competing together, working together and trying to win.”
“We help each other out when we need it,” Hare added.
Shawnee Boys Swimming new record holders pictured together – Jack Artis (200 IM) and Andrew Taylor (200 Free & 500 Free)! pic.twitter.com/utPOUryjqI
— Shawnee HS Athletics (@SHSRenegades) October 30, 2019
The friendly competition between the three seniors may be part of the reason behind their success last season. While Artis, Hare and Taylor all qualified for the Meet of Champions for the first time in 2018, Artis said last season was the year all three of them really broke out.
“(Practicing together) has just made me want to push myself more and push each other more,” Artis said. “I think that’s helped me tremendously.”
“My intensity and my training back when I first joined, especially freshman year, I wasn’t that into it,” Hare said about his development. “But as I got faster and faster, I realized … the more I train and the more practices I go to, the better I’m going to get.”
Taylor did not dive into competitive swimming until he began competing for Shawnee as a freshman. After performing well in his first season, he decided to focus on the sport year-round and compete in club.
“I was not expecting to get anywhere close to here freshman year,” Taylor said. “I dropped roughly 40 seconds in my (500 freestyle time). I wasn’t good freshman year, I was part of the team, but as all of our trainings started to ramp up, I feel like all of us have gotten better and better.”
The senior trio enters the high school season hungry to prove how strong Shawnee is in 2019-20. Hare said the team is entering the season with an underdog mentality despite winning seven or more meets in each of the past three seasons.
Last year, the Renegades came up inches short of advancing to the South Jersey Group B final after falling to Ocean City, 87-83, in the semifinals.
Artis, Hare and Taylor will likely win their fair share of points during Shawnee’s dual meets. However, the three downplayed their roles on the team, saying many of the other Renegades will be just as essential to the team’s fortunes.
“We definitely have some juniors that are going to be really good this year and are going to step up,” Artis said.
Taylor believes head coach Eric O’Neil does a great job of getting the team focused prior to big meets, saying he gives the team a ton of positive energy. Taylor believes that energy could be a difference-maker in some of Shawnee’s close meets.
“I feel like it’s easy to have good group energy and a couple guys that can step up and lead that energy if you’re swimming with guys who you’re comfortable with,” Taylor said.
Individually, the senior trio is looking to simply improve on last year’s performances at the Meet of Champions. The three are also looking to make more noise at the season’s final meet as a relay team.
Last year, the three competed with 2019 graduate Alex Mann to finish 12th overall in the 200-yard freestyle relay. Artis feels with some of the underclassmen improving, the Renegades could place much higher in the Meet of Champions relays in 2020.