Just two lanes of the Salem YMCA’s pool, that’s all the space Glenvar’s fledgling swim team needs for practices this season. Fourteen students showed up for an informal meeting to gauge student interest in the program. Subtract a few from the meeting and add a few year-round swimmers and late sign-ups, and the team’s number stayed the same: 14.
“This team got put together, literally, a week before practice started,” said captain Madison Butler. She and Carter Holliday, both freshmen, lead the team this year.
“I like to swim a lot at the lake, so I figured, why not?,” said Kara Dolan.
“For most of them, this is their first time swimming competitively,” said coach Jenn Harris. Five have previous experience with local clubs, but the other two-thirds have had to work hard to catch up. At practice, while working on strength, speed, and endurance, many of the new swimmers also had to learn their strokes.
Much like athlete-swimmers, all of these beginners have loved water from an early age, just without structured training. T.J. Baumgart started jumping off the diving board when he was under five, he said.
“If you could’ve seen our team at the first practice…” Madison Williams said.
Amy Allen, who accidentally left her suit at home the first day, thought “I don’t think I can do this, it looks really hard.” But now, like teammates Kristina Tuttle and Samantha Hannabass, who were initially intimidated by the sport, she can’t stop talking about it.
“It was mighty brave of [coach Jenn] to take on this new task,” said Susan Clark. Harris also coaches the Sea Lions at the and is the aquatics director coordinator at the Kirk Family YMCA.
“Coach Jenn is one of my favorites,” said Bryan Daunt, an experienced new swimmer. The team collectively agreed that she’s responsible for the team’s quick growth.
“I have never seen this much improvement over such a short amount of time,” said Maddie Kennedy. She estimated the improvement to be at least 110 percent.
And for at least one member of the team, swimming has improved academic life.
“I used to be in the office pretty much every day,” said Ryan Brads. “I haven’t been in trouble since I started swimming.”
When I asked the team to tell me the biggest challenge of adjusting to swimming, Alexis Gliniecki said: “Imagine running without breathing!”
Right now, the athletes are paying for their pool space at the YMCA, their entries into swim meets along with with their suits and sweats, which can add up pretty quickly, said Harris. She’s hoping to get a Glenvar Swimming Booster Club together to help the team cover basic expenses.
*Post updated 3:15 p.m. Monday, Jan. 31