June 20, 2008

No Swimmer Left Behind: Team Keeps Growing, but Summers-Port Coach Says, ‘There’s Room’

By Pete Hayes, The Telegraph, Alton, Ill.

Jun. 20--GODFREY -- The Summers-Port Sharks keep on gowing.

In Thursday's 560-112 season-opening win over Gaslight/Splash CIty of Collinsville, their largest squad ever made meet management a challenge for Summers-Port officials and coaches. But Sharks coach Nancy Miller said there will always be room.

"We keep getting more each day at practice," Miller said at Thursday's meet. "But they're welcome -- we have room. I couldn't imagine telling a child there isn't room on the team."

Miller said she has never considered putting a limit on how many swimmers can join the team.

The Sharks have upwards of 160 swimmers on their team. Last season, Summers-Port had 130, which was its largest team to date. Add to that Gaslight's 80-plus swimmers, and Thursday's event could well have turned out to be a meet-management nightmare. But things went smoothly, according to Miller.

"We had a little trouble with the starting system, so we were a bit late starting the meet, but once we got it going, things went well."

Miller referred not only to the goings-on in the water, but on the pool deck as well.

"There are so many great people here who do so much to run the meets," she said. "It takes a lot to run a meet -- not just by the coach, either.

"It took me about four hours to put all the meet entries together."

In an effort to speed up the meet Thursday, officials opted to try a flyover start system in which swimmers remain in the water at the wall under the blocks at the completion of their race. The swimmers stay there until after swimmers from the next event have entered the water. The practice is commonly used in USA Swimming-sanctioned meets, but is relatively new to SWISA, a summer recreational league.

"It took a couple of races to get the kids used to (the flyover)," Miller said, "but they got the hang of it and I think it speeded things up. Over the course of an entire meet, you can shave a lot of minutes doing it."

Gaslight/Splash City, meanwhile, has continued to grow, despite not having a home pool for three years. A charter member of SWISA, Gaslight's pool did not reopen for the 2006 season and the facility, regarded as the most scenic club in SWISA, was sold to a Collinsville church.

The Gaslight swim team wanted to continue competing, but had to scramble to find a practice site. The team trains at the Splash City water park in Collinsville each morning, but the facility only has four lanes in its lap pool, which makes practices difficult and home meets impossible. Some in the group still hold out hope of being able to purchase the former facility and re-open it, but so far that hasn't happened.

"I think it's a real tribute to (Gaslight coach) Peggy Butler," Miller said of the Gators still putting a team in the water. "And to have it grow like this -- nearly 90 kids and they don't have a pool. That's amazing."

With two more regular season home meets remaining on its schedule, Summers-Port officials will get two more opportunities at meet management.

"I think they've done a great job -- and so have the swimmers, of course," Miller said. "They have really come through. We had a fantastic effort tonight from one 9-year-old girl who just came to the team yesterday.

"If I had told her we had no room, she wouldn't have had that chance to have such a great swim.

"If we tell any child there's no room, they might not ever try it again and that would be sad."


To see more of The Telegraph or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.thetelegraph.com/.

Copyright (c) 2008, The Telegraph, Alton, Ill.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

For reprints, email [email protected], call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.