LIMA — Waves, Sharks and other aquatic creatures are diving into an intense competition beginning Friday when more than 600 area swimmers, from kindergarten to graduating high school seniors, converge at the Western Ohio Aquatic League Championship.
This year’s competition is at the Bluffton swimming pool and the swimmers’ parade begins at 9:05 a.m. Friday and swimming begins at 9:40 a.m. Competition continues Saturday.
Sherwood Park Community Club, Westside, Shawnee Country Club, Wapakoneta, Bluffton, Ada, Lost Creek and Kenton are the teams competing for the crown.
Westside has won the meet seven consecutive years and coaches Cara Murphy, Emily Murphy, Mary Stoll and Trevon Shaffer are the four coaches trying to continue the streak for the Waves.
“We’ve been training really hard and honestly there’s not a day we don’t get in the pool whether it’s raining or freezing,” Cara Murphy said. “Other teams may or may not cancel but we try to cancel as little as possible and get them in the water.”
With all the bad weather the past couple of weeks, Stoll is happy to see the kids come to practice and continue to work hard.
“It’s obviously harder this year because it keeps raining,” Stoll said. “Our kids are awesome, they wait it out every day and we never cancel. They don’t complain about the cold, they get in when it rains and we keep it going every day.”
Shawnee High School standout Emily Murphy is taking on a new role in her first year of helping coach the Wave.
“It’s been a little different this year because I haven’t had as much time to practice especially with the Westside swimmers but I’ve been going to the Y,” Emily Murphy said. “Watching all these swimmers get in and swim every day kind of motivates me to work as hard as they are.”
Shaffer, who graduated from Shawnee this year, stressed the importance of having fun with the summer swimming program.
“It’s really fun coaching the kids especially since I’m the fun coach,” Shaffer joked. “They always want me to play games. In practice we do dolphin dives and play shooter and those are fun.”
Cara Murphy, a 2012 Shawnee graduate and entering her sophomore year at Miami (Ohio), wants to see her team not only win the whole thing, but accomplish other goals as well.
“Our obvious goal is to repeat what we did last year, but I think it’s going to be a closer meet this year, which is exciting,” Cara Murphy said. “I just hope that I see my kids out there encouraging each other and seeing the older kids mentor the younger kids. We have a buddy system on our team. I’d like to see the bigger buddies out there making sure the little buddies aren’t nervous and stuff.”
This will be the second year in a row the WOAL Championship meet will be at Bluffton. Stoll, who recently graduated from Lima Central Catholic, is hoping her swimmers will get used to the facilities quick.
“It’s definitely a different atmosphere,” Stoll said. “It’s kind of cold but I think that helps them. They’re going to get in the water and swim faster. I think we’ll be fine; we always do well at champs. We’ll be fine this year.”