Swimmers show pool spirit

In Columbia's neighborhoods, competing is a rite of summer

July 23, 2008|By Lisa Silverman | Lisa Silverman,Special To The Sun

Warm-ups, which began an hour ago, have come to a close as it nears 8 o'clock Saturday morning. Team members, dripping in their bathing suits with wet hair plastered to their faces, gather around the pool for premeet cheers.

Decked out in a sparkly purple sarong and purple and blue Piranhas tie-dyed T-shirt, Pointer's Run coach Caitlin McGity is doing everything she can to psych up her team.

"We've got spirit, yes we do, we've got spirit, how about you?" shout the voices of about 250 swimmers for the Pointer's Run Piranhas, with McGity leading the way.

Members of the visiting Harper's Choice Challenge stand on the other side of the River Hill pool, and they weren't bashful with their response. The annual rite of the cheer-off, signaling the start of another Columbia Neighborhood Swim League meet, is on, and soon the undefeated teams would decide in the pool which team was better.

This is a particularly big meet for McGity, 21, because she used to swim with and be coached by Harper's Choice head coach Danny Russell.

"Caitlin's great," said Russell, who has coached at Harper's Choice for six years. "We grew up together. She lived two doors down from me. Today's definitely going to be a lot of fun."

The team used to be named the Harper's Choice Dolphins. Its name changed to the Challenge because it is typically a very tough team to beat, McGity said.

"We're definitely going to try to out-swim them today," McGity added. "But knowing Danny, he'll definitely be able to out-cheer us."

As the meet begins, most parents, hovered around the pool, fail to seek refuge from the blistering heat, as their eyes focus on their children. Some swimmers might swim for less than 30 seconds in a single event, but that does not curb the parents' enthusiasm.

Mindy Hirsch, a parent of two Piranhas, does not mind the early wake-up calls and says that the swim team is a great asset for the community.

"The team's like a family," she said. "We joke that everything runs as well as a business, and everyone has a good time."

"I like the competition," said Aaron, Hirsch's 8-year-old son. "I especially like freestyle because I'm very good at it."

Harper's Choice swimmer Maryrose Casazza enjoys the social part of the meet.

"I love how I get to see my friends at the meet," said Casazza, a rising seventh-grader at Harper's Choice Middle School, waiting in the concession line after her race.

Casazza's mother, Regina, sporting a bright yellow team manager T-shirt, is responsible for recruiting volunteers and ensuring that the meet runs smoothly.

"The pep rallies, pot lucks, and all of the events are a lot of fun for everyone," she said with a smile that emphasized her Harper's Choice tattoo on her right cheek. "It's a great community filled with lots of spirit."

Jana Rizzo, a Harper's Choice ribbon writer, enjoys the spirit, too. Her kids have been a part of CSNL for about 10 years.

"The parents love it as much as the kids," she exclaimed. "I have a lot of fun socializing with the ladies."

First-year Piranha Campbell Snoddy, 7, has been having a great summer.

"She loves the water, and it's something fun for her to do," said her mother, Fiona.

This summer is also Harper's Choice swimmer Isabelle Wynn's first year on a team. At age 4, she is one of the youngest team members.

"I love the breast stroke," said Isabelle, as she adjusted her swim cap so it stayed out of her eyes and wiggled her hot pink flip-flops. "I also love cheering for my friends, even if they are on the other team."

More than almost anyone, Dee Bumbera, the meet's starter, understands what is special about CNSL. Growing up in the early 1970s, she spent her summers swimming for the Running Brook team. She has two daughters who compete for Harper's Choice and loves cheering for them, especially when camped out in the shade.

"It's a great environment," Bumbera said. "I've always been very involved and have loved helping out."

At the end of the four-hour meet, the swimmers anxiously awaited the results. The final score - 359.5 to 270 - proved that Pointer's Run is better than most. But for swimmers and parents alike, it was another fun-filled Saturday morning at the pool.

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