EDWARDSVILLE — With numerous returning swimmers, the Summers-Port Sharks are setting their sights on finishing with another strong season this summer.
“It’s a good sized team,” Summers-Port coach Nancy Miller said. “We have good talent up and down the line and good numbers up and down the line in each age group, so we’re blessed.”
The Sharks are looking to win their 24th straight Southwestern Illinois Swim Association championship this season. Last year, Summers-Port won the SWISA meet by 608 points over the host Paddlers Pirates.
“I want everyone to perform at their absolute best and I always think that titles and winning meets will come along if everyone performs at their best,” Miller said.
The Sharks are off to a good start in the 2016 season, winning their first two dual meets, including Tuesday's meet with the Sunset Hills Stingrays. Summers-Port beat Sunset Hills 362.5-274.5.
“It was very challenging given the elements that it was boiling hot,” Miller said. “But my kids rose to the occasion. We talked extensively about how to perform in the heat and bad elements and they followed our advice. I thought they did very well. We had two weeks of training and I’m very pleased that our new swimmers have learned as much as they have. We have really accelerated our pace of learning so we can get as much as we can.”
Sunset Hills was competing its first meet of the season on Thursday. The Stingrays will have a road meet against Paddlers on June 23.
Coach Alex Fenton said he was impressed with the efforts from the swimmers in the 8U division. The Stingrays got wins from Chase Milburn (25-yard freestyle and 25-yard butterfly), Hayden Etcheson (25-yard freestyle and 25-yard breaststroke), Baillie McDonald (50-yard freestyle), Rachel Johnson (25-yard backstroke) and Gabby Cook (25-yard butterfly).
“They really stood out because a lot of them came in not knowing how to do any of the competitive strokes,” Fenton said. “Today, they stepped up and they listened to what I said and they thought about their races and they did it right. That’s all I asked. That’s how you get the buy-in to keep swimming. You get older, you get better and you develop and you keep from getting hurt by having good strokes.”
Fenton said his team has a combined 65 swimmers and divers.
“Most of the time, our goal is to improve strokes and improve times,” he said. “We have some kids who swam over the winter, but mostly this is something the country club kind of does until the end of the summer just to stay fit and have some fun. It doesn’t mean that we can’t build up on the strokes while we do it and that’s what we’re really looking for in this team. We won’t be super competitive until we’re able to field a team that’s large enough to compete with teams like Summers-Port. The numbers win, but they got a lot of heart and they try really hard.”
Madelyn Milburn is one of the returning swimmers for the Stingrays. Last year, she was the only Sunset Hills swimmer to earn a SWISA High Point Award in the 9-10 girls' division. Milburn placed first in the 50 freestyle in the 11-12 girls' division on Tuesday.
Matthew Daniel (15-18 boys), brothers Caden and Cole Akal (15-18 boys), Noah Clancy (15-18 boys), Anna Moehn (11-12 girls) and Thomas Wendle (9-10 boys) are among the top returning swimmers for Summers-Port. Last year, all of them won SWISA High Point awards.
On Thursday, Daniel won the 200 and 100-yard freestyle, Clancy was first in the 100 freestyle, 100 breaststroke and 50 butterfly, Moehn placed first in the 100 freestyle and 50 butterfly and Wendle won the 50 freestyle.
Miller said she was pleased with Lucas Frye's performance in the 9-10 boys. He won the 50 backstroke and the 50 butterfly.
“He really performed well today,” she said. “He mastered the stroke in the butterfly that he wasn’t able to do before.”
Also for the Sharks, Jenna Fleming won the 200 freestyle, 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke in the 13-14 girls.
Summers-Port, which will have a home meet against Splash City on June 23, has a total of 90 swimmers. The Sharks have no seniors after having seven last summer.
“Next year, I’ll have a ton,” Miller said.
The Sharks have a pair of 17-year-old swimmers in Alex Cook and Shelby Roth. Both will be seniors in high school this fall.
Roth, who won the 100 freestyle and the 100 backstroke on Thursday, said she was thrilled to come back for another summer with the Sharks.
“I’ve been swimming for 13-14 years, so I have a lot of experience with this,” she said. “It’s a tradition where every summer you remember why you started back on the swim team. All of your friends did it. You always wanted to get into the water and do what you love. This team has such good coaches and kids around us. Everyone is cheering each other on and I would never switch this team for anything. It’s family.”
Also on Thursday, the Sharks beat Sunset Hills 43-33 in the diving competition. It was the season opener for both teams.
Ellen Anderson (8U girls), Callie Mossman (9-10 girls), Carson Brown (11-12 girls), Paige Mouser (13-14 girls), Jack Evans (13-14 boys) and Leo Rose (15-18 boys) picked up victories for Summers-Port. Remy Tyrrell (8U boys), Tyler Powell (9-10 boys), Adam Powell (11-12 boys) and Lydia Hemings (15-18 girls) were the winners for the Stingrays.