Island swimmers have strong showing at Harvard meet
This year’s regional championships were held at Harvard University and 35 members of the Wahoos qualified to compete, including islanders Noah, Charley and Theo Simmons; Emily and Eliza Kallfelz; Sam and Ani Ayvasian-Hancock;Caleb Wagner; Tommy, Claire and Katherine Brophy; Libby LaMantia and Marcel Desvaux.
According to Head Coach Heather Markman, the Wahoos are made up of approximately 100 swimmers ranging in age from six to 18. Of that 100, roughly 20 swimmers are Jamestown residents.
Divided into groups by age – from eight and under to 15 and older – the swimmers compete throughout the year as part of the Southeast New England (SENECY) league. The regular season ends in late February with the district championships.
Led by Markman, along with assistant coaches Michael Mancini, Terry Giovanni and Kim Anderson, the young swimmers strove throughout the year to meet qualifying times in their individual events.
“There are 13 teams in the SENECY league and 60 teams who compete in the regional competition,” Markman said. “Kids qualify throughout the year. Some may qualify for a number of events early on, while others may qualify in the last event of the year.”
Those who qualify during the league competitions may then go on to compete in the regional championships.
“This is the most amount of kids that we’ve ever had qualify,” Markman said.
Markman, herself a former Wahoo, knows the many benefits participating on a swim team can provide.
“I swam for the Wahoos from age seven to age 18,” she said, adding that it was that experience that fueled her desire to become a coach.
“Competing on a swim team really builds confidence and teaches kids not to give up,” she said. “It also teaches kids to take responsibility and to work towards a goal.”
Markman acknowledged that team-building can sometimes be a challenge, as swimmers compete individually. But, she said, she and the other coaches really worked to bring the team together as a whole.
“We have kids from Newport and Jamestown and all over South County, so they don’t necessarily know one another outside of the swim team. We work really hard to build that sense of team,” she said.
Those efforts paid off this year, she said.
The kids “really stepped up and became a team,” she said.
Islander Boze Hancock, whose two daughters, 12-year-old Sam and eight-year-old Ani compete for the Wahoos, also commented on the team spirit that developed among the swimmers.
“Not only did the girls gain an enormous amount of confidence as athletes, but there was a real sense of community,” he said.
Islanders Jim Simmons and Suzanne Aubois have three children who compete with the Wahoos: 11-year-old Noah and eightyear old twins Charley and Theo. Aubois is also a former Wahoo herself.
“It’s nice for the kids to get off the island sometimes and meet other children,” she said, adding, “I have friends that I made swimming that are still my friends today.”
Suzanne Ayvasian pointed out the fact that swimming on a team requires hard work and dedication.
“These Jamestowners, as well as several others who did not qualify for these championships but practiced and attended dual meets with other teams in the YMCA swim league during the long season, should be commended for their dedication and determination,” she said.
Visit www.newportymca.org for more information about the Wahoos.