By Katie V. Jones
From June until the middle of July, the sounds of cheers and laughter could be heard at local community pools on Saturday mornings as swim teams engaged in friendly rivalry.
After two summer seasons altered by the pandemic, this year marked a return to normal, with more families returning and meets held in person. “The energy is palpable,” said Christine Kposowa, communications liaison for the Montpelier Marlins swim club. “It is a really cool thing to witness.”
While no meets were held in 2020, during the 2021 season, meets were held virtually.
“We would swim at our own pools and compete with another team virtually,” said Terry McCall, manager of the West Laurel Wahoos. “You had to wear masks outside of the pool.”
The Wahoos, he noted, did hold practices throughout the 2020 season and competed against each other.
“It was really important we had a swim team,” McCall said. “We were the only outlet for kids that summer we were open.”
The pandemic, Kposowa said, “did a number” on the team’s membership, reducing the number of swimmers from 100 to 60.
“Not a lot of swimmers returned,” Kposowa said, of the 2021 season. “Our team was so small.”
Typically, swim clubs feature youth ages 5 to 18 competing in various heats, doing strokes like the breast stroke, freestyle and the butterfly. This year, a 4-year-old competed on the Wahoo team, McCall said.
“The criteria at the low end to swim in meets is to not hold up meets or be a danger to themselves,” McCall said. “She was energetic.”
As team captain of the Wahoos, Kara Schmidtt, 16, encouraged swimmers and helped them line up to compete. She also helped coach swimmers ages 8 and under.
“We have a lot of younger swimmers,” Schmidtt said. “I met my best friend when she was 6 and I was 5. The younger kids have the same relationships as I did, and it’s like wow, I’m watching the younger generation of the pool.”
The Marlins offered a pre-team this year to coach beginner swimmers. Though the Mini-Marlins were not allowed to compete at meets, they were invited to participate in all the group’s other activities, Kposowa said.
“We had an overwhelming response from the community,” Kposowa said, noting that more than 20 new swimmers joined. “It was a challenge in some ways. We had to keep the minis safe.”
New policies were put in place, Kposowa added, as the team had to maintain the correct ratio of students to teachers.
“My son joined the team and had swim instruction,” Kposowa said. “He graduated to advance[d] swimmer and placed first in freestyle. There are so many stories.”
Many families have several children swimming, both Kposowa and McCall noted, and some even have third-generation swimmers.
“Our team has been around since the 1960s,” Kposowa said. “It has a long history. It is really cool, the legacy of kids who learn to swim at Montpelier.”
McCall credits the families’ support during the meets for the fact that everything runs smoothly.
“It’s a lot of work,” McCall said. “Meets require about 75% of parents to be involved.”
Both the Wahoos’ and the Marlins’ numbers rose for this season, with the Wahoos going from 65 swimmers in 2021 to 93 this season and the Marlins increasing from last year’s 60 to around 100.
“The parents really like being able to come to meets and see their kids swim,” McCall said. “To see kids doing something important to them is really great.”