Garrard County swim team finds way to be competitive

December 26, 2003|JILL ERWIN

LANCASTER - The Garrard County swim team faces an uphill battle.

The sixth-year team has consistently grown to where it now has 19 swimmers, including 10 in middle school. But with no in-county indoor pool and only three days of practice a week, it's difficult for the Sea Lions to compete with teams that have more opportunities.

"It's really hard," said Stephanie Beard, the only senior on Garrard's team. "My best friend (Deming Williams) swims for Danville and she swims two times a day on average and lifts weights. We have to work really hard with the practices that we have and add a lot of extra miles. Our coaches remind us a lot that we have what we have and when we're there, we're there to swim."

"Ideally, swim teams practice a little bit in the morning, a little bit in the evening every single day," first-year coach Darlene Combs said. "We're swimming probably half of what we should be swimming. That kills our endurance because you can only do so much."


The practices that they do have are held at the McDowell Wellness Center in Danville, a 30-minute one-way drive for each swimmer. That means for a three-hour practice slot, the swimmers are in the pool for about two hours.

The time not spent in the pool is spent instead on keeping them in shape. Assistant coach Greg Ives said the team works on flexibility and toning, doing sit-ups, push-ups and running exercises to improve the swimmers' stamina.

Combs came into a program that was practicing just one night a week. She arranged for two more nights of practice. She also has former Centre swimmer Mark Williams and former Boyle County swimmer Brandon Freeman working with her team.

"I've seen a lot of improvement in their technique alone with him (Mark Williams) working with them," Combs said. "Brandon's even come in on nights he didn't have to work, gotten right into the water with them and really just taken them under his wing."

Two of Combs' daughters, sophomore Aleisha Smith and eighth-grader Chelsey Smith, are on the team. Combs said the chance to spend time with them and help out the program was more than she could pass up.

"I've always been a swim fan," Combs said. "I love this sport because there are no kids sitting on the bench. Everyone is competing and everyone can progress or get better individually. They can set their own goals."

Ives joined the team this year, but has plenty of experience as he swam from first grade into college. He knows the image problem the program fights because he was unaware of the team when he was asked to help coach.

"I didn't ever think I'd be doing this, especially at Garrard County, where I didn't realize we had a team until this year," Ives said. "When they approached me about helping out coaching, I was like 'Where?' I didn't even know there was a team."

The Lions have done well this year, winning two of their first three meets, despite having several swimmers miss time because of illness. Combs said if the Lions had a pool of their own, in Garrard, those results would continue to improve at a more rapid rate.

"We have the talent, I know we do. I see it," Combs said. "If we could get the practice time, I know we could compete.

"Our own pool would mean that our athletes who desire to participate in college level swimming would have the opportunity to develop their skills that we as coaches and school systems should be providing for them. After all, it's our role as coaches and school leaders to prepare our high school students and athletes for success at the college level."

Beard and Combs both say the future could be good for the Garrard swimmers because the team has reloaded with youthful vitality.

"This year we started out with a new team, a fresh team, and we only have about three or four experienced swimmers," Beard said. "It shows real promise. We have a lot of dedicated and devoted young swimmers that will bring a lot of hope to the future."

"In two years, I'm looking at having, I think, a top team in the region if we can get the practice time worked out," Combs said.

Central Kentucky News Articles