Swim team looking for more members

By Jeff Birchfield

STAR Staff

   For Carter County youth between ages 5-18 wanting to enter the world of competitive swimming, there's no time better than the present.
   With only five members currently on the Elizabethton summer swim team, plenty of slots are open for kids who would like to compete in one of the world's oldest sports.
   "I want to emphasize that we are looking for more swimmers," said team coach Jonell Johnson, who is also the head swim coach at Elizabethton High School.
   "If anyone is interested, I would suggest they come out and try it. Greeneville has over 100 swimmers, Church Hill has about 40 and we have five. So we can use plenty of swimmers."
   This is the first full season of a team swimming under the Elizabethton name. Although members of the EHS swim teams have been active in summer leagues for the past several years, they were listed as part of the Johnson City Barracudas Club. Now they will be representing their own hometown in the Kingsport Area Summer Swim League.
   In all seven local communities have teams in this summer league - Johnson City, Kingsport, Colonial Heights, Church Hill, Rogersville, Greeneville and Elizabethton.
   "We had the program going with the Barracudas two seasons ago, but we didn't belong to the Kingsport Area Swim League," explained Johnson. "We went and had our own little intrasquad meets against the Barracuda swimmers. This year, we are actually an organized league. We're hoping to pick up some kids once they get off vacation. We want to do this every year and pick up some kids, where we will be well organized."
   While this will serve to strengthen the Cyclone swim program in the winter, the opportunity to join the team extends to kids, who attend county schools that don't offer swimming as a school activity.
   "This is another way to have a feeder program for the high school," said Johnson. "We started a junior high program, but with this, we can have some kids started younger than that. We eventually would like to build the high school program into a quality program with more participants.
   "When I came into the EHS program, our top swimmers were Ashley Pierce, Brittany Hyatt and Ryan Rice. All of them swam in the Johnson City program. We've had a few more join the Barracuda swim club since I've come and that has helped our swim team."
   Right now, the Elizabethton summer squad has five swimmers on the roster. Keely Hamm and Justin Stanley, ages 13, are the oldest. Cassie Snyder, 12, and Brianna McManus, 8, are also on board. The youngest member is seven year-old Sydney Farthing, who is swimming competitively for the first time.
   Big differences from these meets and high school swim meets are that the longest any swimmer will go is 50 meters and the shortest events are a mere 25 meters, just one lap in the pool. Also, the competition, which is divided into boys and girls classes, will be broken down among age groups, starting with the eight and under class.
   "These races are very short distances, so it's not difficult," said Johnson. "The younger ones don't have to worry about a flip turn or any special turn. They are just learning the strokes. We're not doing things to discourage the starting swimmer.
   "They get to swim in outdoor pools like Legion in Kingsport and Church Hill and Rogersville, where they don't during swimming season. That's a fun thing about summer swimming."
   There is also an effort to reward the athletes for doing their best. The top six finishers in each event will receive ribbons for their accomplishments.
   The summer league schedule consists of seven meets starting this Tuesday and lasting until the championship meet penciled in on Saturday, July 19. For that reason if someone is looking to join, it is important to do so within the next few days.
   "We need those interested in joining to do so within the next two weeks," said Johnson. "I have a couple of swimmers coming Monday. I'm not saying there is a cut-off date, but the season ends July 19 and the sooner they join the better off they will be. But, I emphasize, it's still not too late."