Diminishing numbers don't discourage swimmers

June 23, 1994|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Sun Staff Writer

Even in small numbers, Piranhas can be dangerous adversaries.

The 15-member Taneytown swim team that bears that name plans to live up to its legacy Saturday in the season's first meet, despite losing more than 70 percent of its membership since last summer.

"We're not going to win meets because we don't have enough people," said team member Erin Seraydian, 15. "But we're going to be good, very good in the individuals."

Some of her teammates, enjoying a little recreational swimming yesterday at their home pool in Taneytown Memorial Park, nodded and shared her enthusiasm.

Not bad for a team that a month ago was struggling to exist.

"We almost lost them this year," said Linda M. Hess, the city clerk-treasurer. "There's a lot to do for the swim team and we weren't sure it would be worth the time and money for so few kids."

The team, comprised of 6- to 18-year-olds from Northwest Carroll County and Hanover, Pa., was run by the city when it started competing four years ago.

The previous year's "team was more like a kids getting swimming lessons," said Matt Henline, 15, who has been with the team since its first competitive season.

Eventually, parents took over and handled the team, Ms. Hess said. Membership increased over the years, and last year, there were 53 participants. This year, there are 15.

"After last season, our membership just went kerplooey," Gail Smith, parent of team member Kara, 13, and a co-team representative. "This year it's like starting from scratch."

Mrs. Smith said a rule that requires team members to have a family membership to the pool from the Central Maryland Swim League -- the team's overseeing body -- may contribute to the low membership this year.

A family membership for residents is $135. For families outside the city, it is $175.

Another problem jeopardized the team's existence. Catherine Peiffer, who had coached the team for two years, decided not to return.

But then Ms. Hess found Ray Meinelschmidt, a former swim coach at Middletown High School in Frederick County. He was suggested by his wife, an aquatics director in Frederick County who had heard about the team's plight.

"He's a doll, just like one of the kids," said Ms. Hess of the new coach.

She said Mr. Meinelschmidt said he is leaving registration for the team open until July 22 because "Ray feels that no kid should be denied the opportunity to join the swim team.

Mr. Meinelschmidt was away on business and unavailable for comment.

With the coaching problem solved, the team still needed participants and parent volunteers. It still does.

Though Robin Hahn, mother of swimmers Jessica, 13, and Angie, 12, volunteered to lead the way, many more volunteers are needed to staff the meets and support the team.

"You need 25 people to do a meet. We need people to be timers and stroke-and-turn-judges," said Mrs. Smith. About 11 parents currently volunteer with the team.

"I don't know how we're going to get through Saturday," Mrs. Smith said. "We are really short of people."

Now they have a team, albeit abbreviated. Will the Piranhas be a feared predator, or a fish out of water?

Team members agreed that the team could use a few more people, at least to be competitive at the meets.

But the smaller numbers means more personal attention, said Jeni.

And Nick O'Hara, 10, said he joined the team because he likes to swim, so he know's he'll enjoy the season regardless.

Fellow fishies Nathan Krida, 12, and Jason Bloom, 11, are are confident they will win in their individual events, which have yet to be determined.

So now, as the Piranhas begin its season, veterans Jeni and Matt offer advice to their younger teammates.

"Don't get discouraged," said Jeni. "It's hard work but the rewards that come out are pretty nice."

Matt added: "Please come back [next year], and bring your friends."

Saturday's meet is from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Taneytown Municipal pool in Memorial Park. Anyone interested in helping the Piranhas should call Mrs. Smith at 848-7028. Students volunteering at the meets can have their time applied to their community service requirement toward graduation.

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