It’s been a challenging summer so far for the Red Bank Gators swim team, but they had extra reason to celebrate Monday night after beating the Cleveland Aqua Tigers for their first win of the season.
Both teams entered Monday’s competition winless in three meets, but the Gators now have a slash in the win column after recording a convincing victory by a final score of 402-262.
Red Bank coach Ken Buchanan, who has coached the Gators for the last 30 years and for whom the Red Bank pool was named a couple of years ago, was more worried about the late-afternoon storm that blew through town, but once that was out of the way, he could get down to more serious business.
The Gators are like a bunch of other teams with a host of new swimmers. Learning proper stroke technique, getting starts and turns legal and enjoying cheering for and encouraging teammates has been a key focus for Buchanan and his Red Bank assistants.
But they were able to see the fruits of their hard work on Monday with a much-needed victory.
“We always come to these meets wanting to win, but I was more worried about the weather and if we were going to get this meet in,” Buchanan said during the freestyle relays.
“We are one of the true summer-league teams as we have very few kids who swim year-round. There are times when they just don’t understand why kids from other teams are so much faster, but we just remind them they swim year-round and their conditioning shows.
“Improving times is one of the most important things we focus on and I’m hoping this win will make us want to work harder in the coming weeks. It’s just a matter of us doing our best and having fun in the process. I feel like we do really well, all things considered,” the veteran coach added.
Cleveland coach Kelly McClanahan faces similar challenges with new swimmers, but she knows these kids are being introduced into a lifetime sport that will only provide positive benefits in the coming years for her team members.
“I feel like our kids have done really well today as they’ve fought hard for every place they’ve won,” McClanahan expressed.
“We too have a lot of new kids, but one of our biggest challenges is getting them to come all the way down here for an out-of-town meet, especially under stormy conditions like we had late this afternoon. The good news is they all showed up tonight.
“Winning and losing is not our focus with this team. Our number-one goal is to have fun by introducing them to a new sport that we hope will create a lifetime interest.
“We had some nice surprises today. We had one kid who just learned the butterfly this morning and came down here and placed in his race. Those are the kinds of things that I’m most proud of, but we’re teaching life lessons and it’s much more than just wins and losses,” McClanahan nodded.
The Gators didn’t waste any time taking control of this meet as their lead was 83-40 following the opening freestyle races.
The difference was 209-147 when they took a short break after the medley relay and they finished with a commanding 72-28 advantage in the final free relays to win without a problem.
Noah Blake and Ben Meagher both maxed out with 19 points to lead the Red Bank effort while Trevor Brooks was next with 17. Simon Bastnagel chipped in with 15 while Benton Bilbrey and Thompson Guy both finished with 14.
Trey Parris III and Monroe Chittum both had 18 points to lead the Aqua Tigers while Breanna Belcher and Charlie Chittum were next with 17 each.
Lauren Thompson and Elijah Sluss were next with 16 and 15 points, respectively.
Cleveland will be on the road again Thursday to face Calhoun while Red Bank has a bye on Thursday before hosting Calhoun next Monday.
Other winners on Monday included Fairyland, Ridgeside, Ooltewah and the Waterdogs, who handed Big Ridge its first loss in a tight 409-371 meet in Cleveland.
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)