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Serious swimming

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Anderson looking for elusive state berth

By John Herndon

Anderson County got a taste of how serious competitive can be last season.

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Braden Peyton, now graduated, swam the race of his life in the boys' 50-yard freestyle, clocking in at 23:93. Unfortunately for him, the final state meet qualifier turned in a 23:64, meaning that in less than the time to blink an eye, an Anderson swimmer missed out on being the school's first state qualifier.

“It was a little disappointing to know how close we were to an Anderson swimmer finally getting a state cut,” remembers the Swim Cats' second-year coach Karla Williams. “It taught the team and me how the smallest thing can make the biggest difference. Something as little as breathing one extra time, stretching your body out a little more or gliding just a little longer can make or break the cut. Literally, in the blink of an eye you can miss your state cut.

“Braden swam an awesome race and tried his hardest. I couldn't have asked any more of him.”

The newest edition of the Swim Cats take to the water in earnest Saturday, Nov. 17, when they open the season at Russell County.

When the team met to start practice earlier this fall, there was little doubt that Williams – the fomer Karla Phillips got married over the summer – expects her team to strive to compete. An information sheet distributed to prospective team members listed several requirements for the team, including a working knowledge of all four of the competitive strokes and to participate as a team. “This is competitive swimming, not swimming lessons,” she had written.

It is all about being serious about the sport.

“I think some students see the words 'swim team' and think, 'Oh, yeah. I like to go swimming and play in the pool.' I just want people to understand that being on a swim team is different and that swimming is a competitive sport and practices are meant to be practices, not where one will literally learn how to swim.”

During a practice session at Kentucky State University last week, it was apparent that Williams means what she says. There were plenty of smiles, no question. The team was enjoying its time in the water, but everything was done with a purpose. There was little down time and Williams often made suggestions and adjustments before a swimmer could get out of the pool.

Whether that will translate into a state berth remains to be seen. A year ago, Anderson had its largest contingent to advance to the second day of the regional competition since the program began 10 years ago.

Williams has 17 swimmers – six boys and 11 girls – out for the team. “We are still considered a very small team and we are also a very young team.”

She says four Anderson County Middle School students are on the club.

Williams is expecting big things from James Mason, Andrew Smith and and Ben Spear in the drive for the state, which will be held at the University of Louisville. Mason placed third in the regionin the 500-yard freestyle last year and was ninth in the 100-yard backstroke.

“I'm predicting very close times and the possibility of a state cut for James,” Williams says.

She says Smith had good times in the 50-yard freestyle last year and has begun swimming the butterfly this season.

Spear swam for a recreational summer team in the off-season. “He has returned in top shape and I expect him to drop lots of time on all of his events,” Williams says.

Sophomore Casey Moninger, in his first year of competitive swimming, has been impressive. “He has been phenomenal in his first few weeks of swimming. He is truly a natural in the water. We still have a little bit of fine tuning to do with him, but I expect nothing but great results from him.”

On the girls' side, Megan Adkins and Kylie Gehefer are both expected to contend for regional honors. “Megan has competed well in the butterfly and freestyle,” Williams says. “I look for a lot of good times out of her in her senior season. Kylie is currently 11th in the region in the 100 breaststroke. I look forward to dropping some time off that event.”

While Anderson was shut out of a state berth again last year, the team showed marked improvement in Williams' first season. Her experience along with some more talented swimmers has given the Bearcat teams a fighting chance. “I am definitely a little more prepared of just how much time it takes up and all the ins and out. I now know all that it entails with students, parents and schools. It is a learning process and I'm still learning new things every day.”

 

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