Everyday our digital arts classes telecast a morning news show. It has news, sports, weather and lunch as a part of the program. It is great hands-on experience for our students to be able to gain valuable knowledge and experience. It is broadcast to each of the classrooms in our building (Family Life Center) and is also live streamed over the internet. This week one of the news stories caught my attention. The announcement went something like this, “There will be a bus to the district swim meet this Saturday leaving the school at 6:15 AM.” Ugh, that’s pretty early on a Saturday morning but with the warm-ups starting at 7:00 AM they need to be there on time. Each sport has a district tournament that is the most important contest of its season as it is the first step in qualifying for the coveted state tournament.
IRCS offers 12 different sports to the students that attend here. This adds up to 42 different teams – 22 varsity level, 7 junior varsity, and 13 middle school teams. Two of those teams are the boys’ and girls’ swim teams. Both the boys’ and the girls’ swim teams have 13 members. So it isn’t our biggest sport but it is far from the smallest. It is a mix of high school and middle school athletes. This is another unique characteristic of swimming, they all blend together. The high school students don’t separate from the middle school students – they spend time together when they aren’t in the pool. Our older students make excellent role models and mentors to our younger students.
I had not been to a swim meet yet this year so Saturday morning I made the drive to St. Pete so I could see our swimmers compete at the North Shore Pool. Fortunately, I didn’t need to be at the school at 6:15 AM to ride the bus. Unfortunately, it was our coldest day since last winter. The 62 degree weather could have been tolerable but the wind was blowing and that definitely added to the chill factor. The athletes were fine when they were in the pool (it was heated) but when they were waiting for their events they had layers of clothes, stocking caps, parkas, and sleeping bags to try to stay warm. (Although I will say that a majority of them were still barefoot.) So not only were they up before the crack of dawn but they had to deal with very cold temperatures. What a contrast to the weather their season began with back in August.
Another challenge that faces our athletes is that swimming isn’t a sport that attracts big crowds like you would get in football or basketball. Most of the spectators in the stands were parents, with an occasional grandparent, and sometimes a teacher, like Mr. Englebert. Most of the cheering happens before and after the race as it is hard for them to hear while they are in the water. They face all of these challenges and yet they still swim. They are a dedicated group of athletes who do it for their love of the sport.
Overall, the girls placed 9th out of 13 teams and the boys 6th out of 12. Top four finishes were turned in by Summer Alonso in the 100 breast stroke (3rd), Tyler Small in the 500 freestyle (3rd), and the girl’s 200 freestyle relay (4th) made up of Carly Faller, Mabry Bland, Hannah Huerta, and Summer Alonso. They will all advance to the Regional swim meet next Saturday along with Mitchell Radford in the 100 breast stroke, the girls 200 medley relay (same girls as the 200 freestyle above), the boys 200 medley relay (Tyler Small, Matthew Cleary, Mitch Radford, Nick Metro) and the boys 400 freestyle relay (Donovan Fitzgerald, Mitchell Radford, Nick Metro, Tyler Small). We also would like to recognize our three seniors this year – Carly Faller, Victoria Mann, and Donovan Fitzgerald – for their leadership with our swim teams. They will be missed next year.
Good job swim teams! Thank you for persevering in tough conditions. We are proud of you!