CONGRATULATIONS TO the young swimmers who helped turn a few sultry July afternoons last week into a red-hot sporting event: the county's 13th annual invitational Anne Arundel County Swimming Championships.
While many of us languished in the summer heat July 9-11, nearly 900 enthusiastic athletes ages 6 to 18 from 28 county swim teams filled the indoor pool and bleachers and spilled outside onto the lawn of the Community Center, the practice facility of the Severna Park Swimming Association.
Severna Park Swimming Association teams swim under the name "SPY." Five years ago, management of the center, then known as the Community Center at Woods, was transferred from the Severna Park YMCA to Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church.
Because of years of championship swimming under the auspices of the Severna Park YMCA, and its continued affiliation with the Y's swimming program, the Severna Park aquatics program retains the moniker SPY. The facility used by SPY swimmers is now known simply as the Community Center.
"The purpose of the meet is for the children to have fun," said Candi Wise, who, as SPY business manager, has coordinated the championships for several years. She continued beyond the time that her children swam for SPY because, she said, "I loved it so much, I just stayed."
To keep the pressure low-key, swimmers compete at their age and ability levels, she said. Games add to the fun.
Not that the swimmers need any encouragement to be enthusiastic about competing or cheering on their teammates, but this year the host "spies" added their own brand of excitement. One of the favorite games was a musical version of James Bond. When swimmers heard the music "Secret Agent Man" played randomly during heats or races, they knew that the one with a finishing time closest to .07 or "007" would win a mystery goody bag filled with items such as candy, pens and pencils.
What drew many swimmers and spectators outside was the food being cooked by SPY parents Shelle Besche and Kimberly Cohns, and refreshments sold by volunteers. A steady stream of customers bought burgers, sandwiches, nachos, fresh veggies and drinks. Proceeds from the food concession will help purchase new weight training equipment for SPY swimmers. Similar fund-raisers helped purchase the team's Colorado Timing System, a large, electronic scoreboard that displays times and places in all lanes during a race.
This year's grand champion was the team from Severn River Swim Club in Old Severna Park. Coached since 1986 by Mike McTammany, who spends the rest of the year teaching language arts at Severna Park Middle School, Severn River rang up 730 points.
Its nearest competitor, Evergreen Estates Swim Club, came in second with 512 points; Glen Burnie Park Swim Club was third with 397.5 points.
Medals and ribbons were handed out to swimmers in first through fifth places in all age categories in each of the three ability levels.
It took 12 weeks of basic training for 2001 Severna Park High School grad Scott Syms to earn the privilege of being addressed as "Marine."
Twelve weeks of grueling physical and mental challenges at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C. - such as long-distance runs at the crack of dawn and training in marksmanship and assorted weapons, combat survival and hand-to-hand combat - transformed Scott and his fellow recruits into privates in the Marine Corps.
Basic training concluded with the Crucible, a 4 1/2 -day team problem-solving exercise for the recruits that ended with the ceremonial presentation of their Marine Corps emblems.
Scott's parents, George and Jessie Syms, live in Severna Park.