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Swim Season Brings a Smile

Despite rainy weather, opening weekend brings enthusiasm, excitement about new season.

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The Hamlet swim team stayed out of the rain thanks to a tent sent up for their opening weekend meet against McLean.

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The Tuckahoe team gathers in a pre-meet huddle.

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From left, Charlie Moore and Jack Gradle rest between heats.

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Umbrellas were all the rage at Tuckahoe this past weekend, when parents and swimmers alike tried to make the best of a rainy Saturday morning meet.

Swimming is a year-round sport for 14-year old Hamlet Pool member and McLean resident Trevor Coar. A swimmer for eleven years, Coar always dreads the two-week break between winter and summer seasons. These weeks are “so boring,” he said.

So the start of the 43rd year of the Northern Virginia Swim League was a welcome sight Saturday morning, June 20, despite the less than ideal weather conditions.

“It feels awesome even though the day is gloomy,” said Coar, referring to the on-again, off-again rain showers that made umbrellas a prized possession among parents.

Many other swimmers, parents and coaches in this ultra-competitive league share Coar’s anticipation of the start of the new season.

Each meet is set up by stroke and then by age group. The youngest age group swims first and the order of the strokes is as follows: freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and finally the relays. Each heat includes six competitors, three from each team.

The scoring is a combination of all the individual scores within the team. Five points are awarded for first place, three points for second and one point for third.

Of the more than 100 clubs that participate in the NVSL, each team has swimmers ranging in age from 8 to 18. However, the score for the youngest member counts for an equal amount as the oldest, so they are equal team members.

Saturday, June 20, in McLean was a day of great excitement for swimmers of all ages. Some of the first meets of the season took place at Tuckahoe Recreation Club and The Hamlet Swim and Tennis Club. Tuckahoe defeated Donaldson Run, 260-117, while Hamlet lost to Overlee, 227-115.

<b>TUCKAHOE SWIMMER</b> and senior assistant coach, Megan Howard, said, “I like how connected the team is” about why she enjoys swimming in the summer league. At 16, Howard is one of the older members of the team. She said that she tries to include the younger swimmers by simply spending time with them. Also, as a coach, she influences her younger teammates to become better swimmers.

Charlie Moore and Jack Gradle, both 8, also enjoy swimming for the Tuckahoe Tigers. “I like making friends and spending time with my friends,” said Moore. Gradle focused more on the competition itself, saying that he was really there for the swimming. Moore’s favorite stroke is freestyle and Gradle said that it was too tough a choice to pick a favorite.

“I like going to the meets and the cheers,” said Erika Yoha, 12, about Tuckahoe swimming. The cheering is constant from before the meet begins all the way through to the end. A common one at Tuckahoe is as follows: “Oh no! It’s Tuckahoe what are you gonna do?” and “Let’s Go, Tuckahoe!”

Parent volunteers are a critical part of every swim team. Cindi Sensibaugh volunteered as a marshal for this meet to enforce safety precautions at the pool. She also watched her two children compete, Chandler, 10 and Crosby, 13. “What you get here is that all ages are equal parts of the team,” said Sensibaugh. “There are great friendships and mentorships, good competition and sportsmanship.”

<b>AT THE</b> McLean-Hamlet, a similar atmosphere of intense competition and fun existed simultaneously, which is what Alec Contag, 17, cited as his favorite part of the summer swim league. “This atmosphere and the constant cheering [are my favorite part]. We really are a family,” he said.

As a family, these swimmers train compete and spend many hours together daily. “It’s a sport that requires a good deal of dedication,” Contag said.

Christina Curtis, 8, said she likes learning more about the strokes, although she is no beginner. This was her third NVSL opening weekend and, even with the wet weather, everything about the team “feels really good.”

To have a swim team’s results posted in the Connection or online, contact sports editor Mark Giannotto at mgiannotto@connectionnewspapers.com