Citywide meet marks season

Swimming: The competition is lively at the Phelps Luck neighborhood pool.

Summer

In Howard County

August 03, 2005|By Lowell E. Sunderland | Lowell E. Sunderland,SUN STAFF

It starts early on a Saturday morning and, aside from a lunch break, continues till late afternoon.

For at least five or six blocks, well beyond the streets lined with cars and sport utility vehicles of parents whose kids are competing, you can hear the starting horn every couple of minutes. Then come a few seconds of yells and cheers, most of them from children - but not all.

Just down from Howard High School, on the Columbia side of the hill that is Howard County's highest point, residents know the upbeat sounds as part of the rhythm of summer weekends: a swim meet at the Phelps Luck neighborhood pool.

And when the sounds continue deep into afternoon, that means only one thing: It's the Columbia Neighborhood Swim League's annual All-City Meet.

This year's meet, held Saturday, drew 810 youthful swimmers, up from the past couple of years, said Jeff Scrivener, who heads the league.

Amid the colorful tents and canopies that break the day's withering sun are members of the Clemens Crossing Cyclones, the Wilde Lake Watercats, the Owen Brown Barracudas, the Long Reach Marlins, the Kings Contrivance Waves, the Oakland Mills Tiger Sharks, the Huntington Dolphins and the host, the prosaic Phelps Luck Swim Team.

Any youngster from the swim league can enter, regardless of how he or she has finished during dual meets, although most participants have experienced competitive success.

The citywide meet, the culmination of weekly dual meets between neighborhood and village teams, is a rite that extends back to Columbia's earliest days, maybe 30 years.

This is recreation-level swimming with a competitive bent - not the higher-octane, year-round swimming that grinds out Olympic (and college scholarship) aspirants.

That does not diminish the competition, however. Times are kept, meet records are broken, and there are plenty of age-group winners with trophies and medals or brightly colored ribbons, all the way down to eighth place for individual events and relay teams.

Anyone standing at the board where results are taped up can hear parents congratulating their youngsters on new "personal best" times, or marveling at how a neighbor's son or daughter performed (or didn't).

Someone like Samara Gelb, from Pheasant Ridge, could go home with memories that, no doubt, lit up the household; she won twice Saturday morning, setting meet-record times for girls 13 and 14 in the 50-yard butterfly and backstroke.

But even for those who did not set records, or win a heat, just having been there seems likely to be an experience remembered deep into adulthood.

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