The wind is brisk but the water is warm as Mount Si High School’s first independent swim team takes to the waters under gray skies.
For some years, Mount Si has fielded a small team of swimmers who’ve practiced with Issaquah coaches and athletes at an Issaquah swimming pool.
But this fall, a more-than-doubled squad of swimmers are learning from their own coach, swimming at a Valley venue. It’s a new beginning, and the girls know it.
“To be in the Valley is fantastic,” says junior Jessica Brady. “We’re going to be more involved with the school this way.”
“We’re blessed to have a team here,” says Patrick Stewart, a newly hired coach from North Bend.
Other teams in the KingCo League include bigger squads of 60 or more, “teams the size of football teams,” who have to travel and share pool space with other squads, says Stewart.
He feels fortunate to be able to work with the private Snoqualmie Ridge TPC club, using their outdoor Olympic-length pool as practice grounds through October.
“They needed a place for practice, instead of a commute to another city and shared pool time,” he said.
The arrangement opens up possibilities for independence and growth.
Mount Si fielded 18 swimmers, more than double the number who traveled west to swim under Issaquah’s aegis last fall.
Stewart, who came on board last summer, says that there’s a good core of these 18 who already have fundamentals. Some haven’t done any competitive swimming.
Stewart sees his role as keeping them motivated, and helping them develop a passion for the sport.
“Right now, they’re excited because it’s a new team, and they’re all working together really well,” says Stewart.
“And getting to know each other. It’s exciting to see that.”
They’re all juniors, sophomores and freshmen—there are no seniors.
Swimming is an individual sport beneath the water, but a team sport above the waves. The team identity comes into play during relays. At meets, “we’ve always been good at cheering for everyone and making sure everybody feels included,” said Brady. “I hope we’ll be able to continue that.”
To make friendships between the different grades, Hallie Lynn has been organizing ‘buddy’ gifts for every meet.
“Working together, training together every day, helps build that team dynamic, says Brady. “We’ve gotten really close, and we’re all good friends.”
“I swim because it’s fun and I love it,” says junior Wendy Spear. Spear says she’s also a runner, and there’s no better feeling than jumping into a pool after a run.
“The weight is taken off,” she says.
An experienced club swimmer, she had a knee injury last year, so she wants to stay healthy and be able to swim in every meet.
Monday, Aug. 26, was the team’s first practice, and the team feeling is already there, says junior Kelly McCracken, another experienced swimmer. The gloomy skies above don’t scare her. Back in Issaquah, she was among the girls who swam out of doors in all weather.
“It’s fun to swim in the rain,” she said.
Teens and parents who Stewart’s met have expressed interest in news of the team. People are excited, he says.
“It’s one thing we’ve been missing around here,” said Stewart. “Swimming us such a life-long skill and sport.”
The community can help support this squad by coming to matches, helping with future fundraisers, and maybe, some day, building a bigger, indoor pool.
As for boys, there is currently no plan to form an independent boys squad.
Such a plan would require athletes, a coach and a venue. Now that the girls team has formed, perhaps things will happen.
“There is definitely interest out there,” says Stewart.
Mount Si girls swimming
Friday, Sept. 13
• Mount Si vs. Roosevelt at Ballard Pool, 3:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 19
• Mount Si hosts Issaquah, 3:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 5
• Diving qualifier at Juanita High School 1 p.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 8
• Mount Si vs. Liberty at Boehm Pool, Issaquah
Saturday, Oct. 12
• Invitational at Bainbridge High School, 8 a.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 15
• Mount Si vs. Newport at Mary Wayte Pool, 8:30 a.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 29
• Kingco Championships at Juanita Pool, 3 p.m