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Middle school students get something to swim for

Swimmers cheer for their teammates during the recent middle school championship meet.1 / 2
A swimmer competes in the breast stroke during the middle school championship meet last week at the Bluewater Aquatic Center.2 / 2

Mix 290 middle school students, a pool and athletic bragging rights, and things are bound to be a little chaotic. But it can also be a lot of fun.

Middle school swimmers got to compete for fun and bragging rights last Friday when Independent School District 196 held its first districtwide swim championship. Most years, middle school swimmers compete in a series of dual meets, then hang up their suits. But this year coaches and athletic directors started thinking about doing something more. The district already has similar championships for middle school track and wrestling, so a swimming event seemed like a natural.

At least it did once there was a facility that could accommodate that many swimmers. As luck would have it, one of the RMS swim parents owns Bluewater Aquatic Center, an eight-lane competition pool just over the border in Apple Valley. He was on board early in the discussions.

All of the district's competition pools have six lanes.

"I don't know that anybody would have wanted to attempt it in a six-lane pool," RMS athletic director Brad Schaffer said.

Friday's meet was the biggest many of the swimmers have been involved in. It was also the biggest crowd they have had on hand to cheer for them. The bleachers were full for the competition.

"It was really cool," Schaffer said. "The athletes deserve a chance to swim at an event that's bigger than just two teams. They work hard and they deserve a chance to participate in something that's larger."

RMS girls swim coach Tami Carlson did a lot of the behind-the scenes work to make the meet happen. She said it was good for the students to compete in a bigger meet. They weren't just going out to swim, she said. They talked before the competition about who they wanted to beat.

"I think that raised a lot of energy and excitement for them," she said.

The meet also worked out well for RMS. The girls and boys teams both took first place among the six competing schools.

Now, that's fun.