By Jon Gremmels
Herald Sports Editor
Gone is the Class of 2012, a group of swimmers that brought Clinton High School some of its best success in the swimming pool since the glory years under legendary coach Howard Judd.
The River Kings placed eighth in the state meet last winter, Matt Boyd won two state titles and he and Andrew Howes, Tyler Hemingway and Shawn Mauritz rewrote most of the school record book.
But they've all moved on now. Gone, but not forgotten.
One of the great things about high school athletics is there's always somebody ready to take the place of yesterday's stars.
While they know they're not in the same class — at least not yet — Bret Determan, Josh Hill and Trevor Kao are ready to lead the next group.
"All of us trained with them over the summer," Kao said. "They pushed us, worked on our weaknesses and built us up. Them mentoring us helps us with our teammates and helps the whole team."
It's a team that lacks the star power of recent years, but coach Albert Hayton likes the foundation that is in place and his three captains — Determan, Hill and Kao — who have taken on the leadership role in and out of the pool.
"We have a group of 30 who are working hard," Hayton said.
"We have a lot of newbies who didn't know too much about swimming," Hill said. "Now they know how it runs."
Thanks in large part to Determan, a senior; Kao, a junior; and Hill, a sophomore.
"I'm impressed with my three captains," Hayton said. "They've stepped up and taken over the (leadership) role. I have no fear putting them in any event. If we want to win an event, I can put any of those three in and give the other team a run for its money."
One of the three has recorded Clinton's best time in each individual event.
Hill ranks 15th in the state in the 500-yard freestyle and 24th in the 200 freestyle. He also leads Clinton in the 100 freestyle. Determan ranks 23rd in the state in the 100 butterfly. Kao has the Kings' top times in the 50 freestyle, 100 backstroke, 100 breaststroke and 200 individual medley.
They also have combined with Nathan Harden to post top-30 times in the state in each of the three relays, the 200-yard medley, the 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle.
The captains say last year's seniors deserve much of the credit.
"They were good team leaders," Determan said. "They always looked at us as the future."
As much as Boyd and Co. owned the glow of the spotlight, they never forgot about those pushed into the background.
"I don't think they hogged it," Kao said. "It was their time. But having them in the pool pushed us. They even always encouraged everybody and pushed us so we could perform better as a team."
And they did the little things have given the new leaders a solid work ethic.
"Last year, Matt Boyd kind of personally gave me more of a drive for swimming," Hill said. "Sometimes I didn't want to go to the 5:30 a.m. practice but he was knocking on my door. This year, it's me knocking on the door at 5:30."
Those knocks will continue next week. While most high school students enjoy time away from school, the swim team will keep practicing, hoping it pays off in the second half of the season.
"We still have winter break to come," Hill said. "That's when people get pushed hard, and that's when you'll probably see pretty good time drops for everybody."
And the current group of swimmers will have a chance at the name recognition their predecessors enjoyed.
Still, the memory of the Class of 2012 — along with the Tuisl twins, Evan and Andrew, who were seniors the previous year — will live on at least as long as their names remain on the record board at the end of the new pool. But, the new group wouldn't mind erasing some of those memories.
"It's great they broke so many records, but that doesn't mean we don't want to break some of them, and we have the potential to do it," Kao said.
Last year's stars might not mind it, either.
"I swam with all four of those guys since I was 7. I think they would enjoy it if all three of us would break one of their records," Hill said. "I also think it would make them mad, but we're all friends here and it's all right to see them mad."
Records or not, though, the goal for these River Kings is to attain their maximum amount of success. Hill said he believed they were well on their way.
"I knew coming in last year we were going to lose them, and it would leave big shoes to fill, but it inspired us to fill those shoes," he said. "I told the team at the beginning of the year we had some big shoes to fill, but I think they've stepped it up, and they have surprised me."
Just like the tide on an ocean beach, a new wave is ready to replace its predecessor.