Miller column: Swimming rebounding toward parity

Miller column: Swimming rebounding toward parity

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Miller column: Swimming rebounding toward parity

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Lincoln swimmer Leah Wirgau practices her turns off the wall during a recent practice at Jack McLean Park’s pool.

Lincoln swimmer Leah Wirgau practices her turns off the wall during a recent practice at Jack McLean Park’s pool.

Lincoln freshman Dylan Vause pulls his golf ball out of the hole Tuesday afternoon after holing his approach shot on Seminole Golf Course’s par-4 16th hole.

Lincoln freshman Dylan Vause pulls his golf ball out of the hole Tuesday afternoon after holing his approach shot on Seminole Golf Course’s par-4 16th hole.

The jump pass was used long before Tim Tebow did it for the Florida Gators. In this photo, football players from Florida High in 1960 demonstrate its usage during a practice.

The jump pass was used long before Tim Tebow did it for the Florida Gators. In this photo, football players from Florida High in 1960 demonstrate its usage during a practice.

I woke up in the middle of the night this week and I wasn’t able to fall back asleep until I did one thing— change the thermostat from 74 degrees to 73.

I’m not sure what it is, but that one degree is the difference between being too hot and being perfectly cozy.

Every high school athletic program in the city wants to hit that sweet spot, the point where they’re not only controlling the ambient but determining success and failure by the smallest of degrees.

Chiles’ boys swimming out to emulate girls team

For many years, Tallahassee’s top swimmers came out of Leon and Lincoln, while Florida High, Maclay and Rickards have also had success.

“Working for Lincoln swim team is something I have a lot of pride in, just because of what we built here, being Lincoln alum myself,” said Trojans coach Karla Norris, starting her 10th year for Lincoln over two five-year stints. “I want people to know that Lincoln can do very well and succeed. I wouldn’t want to coach in Tallahassee for any other team.”

ATAC had a strong weekend at its long-course invitational. Nine ATAC swimmers have qualified for the upcoming U.S. Swimming Futures Championship at Purdue University in August.

ATAC had a strong weekend at its long-course invitational. Nine ATAC swimmers have qualified for the upcoming U.S. Swimming Futures Championship at Purdue University in August.

When Chiles opened in 2000, it slowly and unwittingly created a vacuum. It was a degree of difference not immediately seen, but it has been felt, due in large part to past city growth on the north side.

A large number of Area Tallahassee Aquatic Club’s swimmers suddenly were zoned for Chiles. And the Timberwolves have been having immense success, mostly at the expense of Leon and Lincoln.

“Before I took over, about the time I started teaching at Leon, we were the school, won state titles, always won district,” Lions coach Art Skelly said. “For some reason, we didn’t have the same caliber.”

Population growth on the north side of Tallahassee caused rapid expansion of Chiles, which has had a run of swimming success. Schools such as Leon and Lincoln hope that will normalize soon and create parity.

Population growth on the north side of Tallahassee caused rapid expansion of Chiles, which has had a run of swimming success. Schools such as Leon and Lincoln hope that will normalize soon and create parity.

It’s a numbers game. Norris and Skelly have very good swimmers, but not the year-round masses to produce the same results once seen. Sometimes they’re teaching swimming to brand new participants.

“What’s good about high school season is they can root for their high school,” said Norris, who will be coaching against father Gerry Norris this season after the long-time swim pioneer and ATAC coach took over at Chiles.

“It creates a team camaraderie for three months and gets you involved with school mates they might not otherwise swim with.”

That’s not a slight on club teams such as ATAC or Maclay Northside Dolphins. Each would welcome more year-round swimmers. It’s what Norris and Skelly hope comes out of their conversations with incoming freshman that haven’t yet touched a pool.

Gerry Norris takes over Chiles’ swim program

It also has to happen at a younger age too in order to begin peaking as adolescence hits.

Yet the best hope for the future may lie in the law of averages creating a rebound effect.

“The population is now growing in other areas,” Gerry Norris said. “Lincoln has a number of good swimmers and Leon does too. There is some infusion going back into those schools after we had a big growth up north. Will it ever be a level field? I hope it does. It makes it more fun. I don’t know when everyone will be on the same plane, but I hope it happens.”

Chiles sophomore John Yambor-Maul has learned to love swimming, which coincides with a rise towards excellence.

Chiles sophomore John Yambor-Maul has learned to love swimming, which coincides with a rise towards excellence.

Kwan, Kemeny stand out for Maclay Northside Dolphins

Two Maclay Northside Dolphins’ swimmers are ones to watch over the coming several years.

Deerlake Middle School student Hayden Kwan, 12, swam the fifth fastest time ever in the U.S. in his 200 IM age group this summer, a time that was also the fastest time in the country this year. He ranks 20th nationally in every event he races.

“He’s more mature than the average kid,” said Dolphins director Bob Ruth, who’s had Kwan since he was 7. “He listens unusually well and he’s unusually disciplined. Not every kid swims the practices he does or set the goals he does.”

Additionally, home-schooled student Saige Kemeny, 13, qualified for Junior Nationals this summer, a prestigious 18-and-under meet, and is qualified for winter Junior Nationals as well via the 200 breaststroke.

“Saige has swimming on her mind a lot,” Ruth said. “She enjoys practice and makes everyone else enjoy it because he’s so social. She brings great energy out and is a delight to coach.”

HAYDEN KWAN, age 12:

  • 1st nationally in 2015 LCM season- 200 IM, (5th fastest time in U.S. history)
  • 100 back- 4th nationally, 19th all-time
  • 400 IM- 10th nationally (untapered), 60th all-time
  • 50 fly- 11th nationally, 59th all-time
  • Shared high points at Florida Age Group Championships in Sarasota in July, setting new meet records in 200 IM & 100 back
  • In 2014-2015 season SCY as an 11 year old: 200 fly 1st nationally, 200 IM 2nd nationally, 400 IM 1st nationally
It was a beautiful day of swim practice for the Lincoln Trojans at Jack McLean Park pool recently.

It was a beautiful day of swim practice for the Lincoln Trojans at Jack McLean Park pool recently.

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