A long row of swimmers clung to the west side of the pool on the third day of practice. They looked up at their assistant coaches, who were providing instruction on training speeds and form. All the while, Mike Werner perched on the concrete bench and looked out across the pool in search of a word to summarize what this year's Park City High School swim team will be.

"Diverse," he said after a long pause. "I think that's the best way to put it."

If there's one quality Werner would welcome with open arms, it's diversity. After all, he doesn't think all that highly of doing things by the book. State finals are just another opportunity for swimmers to beat their previous-best times. To Werner, state titles, while good, aren't the end-all be-all of his head-coaching existence.

"If they're willing to work hard and try, they can do whatever they want and have fun," he said. "This is a family."

He chose "diverse" because this year's Miners are the defending state champions on one side of the spectrum and a young, talented up-and-coming group on the other. He chose "diverse" because he's allowing brand new faces to compete and represent Park City for the first time. Whether they be freshmen, sophomores or even seniors, first-year swimmers are giving it a shot with Werner and his group.

Werner said he is most excited for the opportunity to teach and mold first-year swimmers while remaining competitive against the state's top schools.


"Most of the new people on the team each year I've seen at some point in the past, but this year, I have several new faces I've never seen before," he said. "It's really changing the dynamic of the team up a little bit.

"People want to join us because of who we are and what we've accomplished."

The Park City boys' squad, which won the 3A state title in early February at Brigham Young University, lost loads of talent to graduation, starting with star sprinter Dusty Ragland, who is now swimming at the University of Utah. Also gone from the 2011 state-title squad are Nathan Melgaard, Hayden Peterson, Turner Bronstein and Joseph Palmer, among others.

For Werner, it's not necessarily about reloading as much as building around the talented core has returning this season. That includes seniors Zach Carfi, Jensen Howard, Alec Topkis and Garrett Jensen and Bailey Cooper. Carfi, Howard and Topkis were voted team captains of the boys' side on the first day of practice.

Carfi said in order for the boys to repeat their 3A championship run, they must use what they call "teamenship."

"It's about us being human and being a family," he said. "At school, we all walk down the hall together. We're a group of kids who have similar interests in swimming."

He said teaching the new swimmers how to shed seconds in the water is one thing he is really looking forward to.

"The two hours that we're here we dedicate completely to working hard to hopefully re-create that magic we had last year," he said. "That's our goal."

Werner's unique approach to coaching stresses that the success of a season doesn't hinge on whether or not the team is standing atop the mountain after the state championship.

"It's not about replacing guys; it's more of a 'Hey guys, let's step up and do better,'" he said. "If we can win state again, hey, that's great, but that's not our focus."

The season officially kicks off at the Region 10 Invitational at Ecker Hill Aquatic Center on Wednesday, Nov. 14.

The Park City girls' squad, which was just a few breaks away from cracking the top three in 2011, finished fifth due to some disqualifications at the state meet. Werner said that is motivation enough for the girls' team to do one better than last season.

"We had a learning experience at state," he said. "I think they're really going to come together. Last year we were really green and young. We're really getting after things and that's going to allow us to get going earlier. I think the girls are going to surprise some people."

Senior Molly Roguschka and junior Grace Peterson were voted as the team captains on the girls' side and Roguschka said this year's team has a closeness to it that other teams in the past haven't possessed. 

"Freshmen and seniors are friends and it's not awkward to talk to them," Roguschka said. "It's not fake -- it's just genuinely good friendships.

"This year, even if we don't win first or second, our best times at state or region is always our goal -- 100 percent."

Other notable performers returning from last year's team are Megan Flake, Natalie McDonald, Bailey Burke and Maddi McIntyre, among others.

When asked what perhaps sets his team apart from other swim programs in the state, Werner again took a long pause.

"If you have heart and you have guts, we want you and we'll take care of you," he said. "That's what separates us from a lot of the different sports. We have the best, we have the beginners, and anybody who wants to work, we want them."