HIBBING — During the high school girls swimming season, Hibbing coach Mike Veneziano flew by the seat of his pants to put together a training regimen to battle COVID-19.
As it turned out, the Bluejackets outswam every team but Mesabi East on the way to a 7A runner-up finish.
Now, the Hibbing mentor is going to try and duplicate that as the Bluejacket boys begin their season today, beginning at 5 p.m. against Rock Ridge at the high school pool.
Veneziano’s ability to adapt his training regimen will be coming into play during this shortened season.
“We adapted the way we trained to fit the environment and the confines of what we had to work with,” Veneziano said. “We adapted on how we changed a step further. We’re training differently than most high school teams train.
“In the COVID era, I had to take it another step forward. I learned that what we chose to do with a shot in the dark, it worked. The girls had good performances, beyond our expectations. Whatever we did, we did it successfully.”
The biggest characteristics are hard work, dedication and sacrifice to get it done.
“With this sport, that’s the nature of this beast,” Veneziano said. “If you take any of that out of the equation, you don’t get from Point A to Point B. You’ve hamstrung yourself. We all understand that around here. You have to work to the best of your ability.
“You have to work hard. You have to have a work ethic. You have to have all of that in order to be as successful as possible.”
If that’s not in place, improvement won’t come naturally.
“You can take those out of the equation as an individual, if you want to,” Veneziano said. “You don’t have to work 100-percent. You can get by on 50-percent around here, but you’re not going to get very good. You can get by on it.
“The identity is that even though there is a pandemic, this is still a Mike Veneziano team. I’m not saying it’s my way or the highway, but all of the trademarks of every team I’ve coached, I expect the same out of them, along with the rest of my coaching staff.”
The expectations of how a Veneziano team trains hasn’t changed.
Philosophically, nothing has changed. Expectations, nothing has changed. The character of the team, nothing has changed,” Veneziano said. “We take what has made us who we are for so long and adapt it to COVID.
“We don’t try and do it the other way around. It’s not about beating the other teams in comparison as to this is what we should have done and this is what we ended up doing. On paper, how good are our expectations. I see no difference here.”
Leading the way this season will be seniors Aman Majumdar and William Stenson. They will be integral to get this team up-and-running.
“I need to get everything I can out of them,” Veneziano said. “As we learned through the girls’ season, things are strange. We have to make this up as we go along. We have to adjust our goals to fit the circumstances.
“You constantly push the line and improve to the best of your ability.”
The junior class consists of Cooper Emerson, Aaron Hadrava, Griffen Benedict, Reilly Benedict and Kellen Fisher. The sophomore class has Ben Riipinen, Ben Philips, Cole Hughes and Logan Drews.
The freshmen class has Tyler Fosso, Elliot Benedict, Tim Ranta, Christian Massich, Zander Buroker, Luke Pocquette and Alex Hanegmon.
There are six eighth-graders and one seventh-grader.
It’s a solid team, but Veneziano said there’s not a lot of depth.
“If you add in our junior-high guys and keep them as junior-high guys, with the senior-high guys, we don’t have a lot of depth,” he said. “If we start using our junior-high guys as our depth, we fill in the blanks that we need and put the pieces of the puzzle together.
“We’ll be fine. I don’t know what to expect because I don’t know what to expect out of my own athletes. I don’t know what to expect from the other teams. That’s immaterial at this point. We have to put forth the best effort that we can. If we can take it from Point A to Point B, we need to make them better. I’ve learned over 53 coaching seasons, that works out best.”
That will be put to the test against the Wolverines.
“They’re the defending champs of the region, so it will be an interesting test,” Veneziano said. “Again, I don’t know what we’re working with, and I don’t know what we’re working against.
“If you want to simplify the equation, it’s a platform to start from. It is what it is. We will go out and compete at the highest level we can, then build from there.”