A pack of Waterdogs race during Thursday's meet at Cumberland.
photo by M.A. Locke
There have been some really great summer swim league teams in the Chattanooga area in the past 50 years or so, including the Cumberland Currents, who had one of the best teams ever back in the 60s and early 70s.
Those were the days when Cumberland had nip-and-tuck battles with Shepherd Hills and those two battled for league supremacy every summer, long before Signal Mountain, Stuart Heights and Ooltewah became factors.
Times have changed a bit since that time and the Cumberland Youth Foundation doesn’t draw the numbers they once did and the level of competition has certainly dropped off as well.
Cumberland had 89 kids join their team this summer. Covid cancelled the season two years ago and pool reconstruction prevented the Currents from having a team last summer.
It’s been too many seasons since they won a meet as they simply don’t have the numbers, but there is nobody in the Chattanooga Area Swim League that has more fun at a summer meet than do the Currents.
Who cares what the score is? Who’s even counting? The bottom line is that these kids get a chance to be part of a team, make a ton of new friends, have fun in the process and learn a life lesson they can carry forever.
The Currents finished their regular season on Thursday as they lost to the Waterdogs. The score wasn’t close as the team from Cleveland prevailed easily by a 466-286 final, but not a single kid or adult wearing the Cumberland blue left the pool on North Moore Road with a frown on their face as they had a lot of fun from the minute they arrived until the time they headed home.
Andrea Schurr is the Cumberland head coach this year and has been at the job for several summers now. She’s just happy with the turnout they’ve had after being taken out of the loop the last two summers.
“We were wiped out by Covid two years ago and our pool was getting rebuilt last summer, so we’re just thrilled to be competing here this year with a great group of 89 kids,” Schurr said shortly after the meet began.
“We had a bunch of new kids this summer and most had never swam in a competitive meet before. The amount of improving they’ve done is simply amazing. They are an incredibly diverse group, but they’ve learned a lot and all of a sudden, we have a swim team.
“I spend most of my time chasing kids around to make sure they’re in the right spot, but I normally slow down when the free relays begin. But this has been another incredible summer and I’m so blessed to be able to work with these kids,” she added.
Julie Thornburg grew up swimming for Cumberland and has been one of their assistant coaches for almost 40 years. She teaches swimming at McCallie the rest of the year, but her summers are dedicated to the Cumberland swim team.
“This is my happy place. I swam here when I was just a kid and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. It’s been such a rewarding experience for me. To see kids who couldn’t swim from one side of the pool to the other at the start and are now swimming for points is priceless,” she said with a bit of emotion in her voice.
“They come here and have fun. They make a ton of new friends and they learn a life skill they can take with them forever. It just doesn’t get any better than that. They come here every day and give me their best effort. That’s all I could ever ask,” Thornburg nodded.
Tony Womac is another veteran coach who loves summer swimming. He’s a bit superstitious at times and refuses to talk about a win before the final score is announced, regardless of what the score is.
“We all know that anything can happen in meets like this, so you never count your chickens before they hatch,” he said during a slow moment during Thursday’s meet.
“It’s not over until it’s over, but we’ll be 5-0 if we win here today. We’re going to be working really hard in the next few days as we’re taking the most kids we’ve ever taken to the City Meet,” he continued, saying that at least 60 will be taking part at Fort Oglethorpe’s pool next weekend.
“I always have high expectations for these kids and we wouldn’t be talking right now if I didn’t. But we started out with a bunch of new ones and they have really come on strong in the last couple of weeks. We had a bunch who were exhibition swimmers at the start who are now scoring big points. That’s the best part,” Womac added.
Abby Anglin and Alaina Chapman both scored the maximum 19 points for the Waterdogs on Thursday while Oliviah Spence, Jack Chandler and Levi Steve both followed with 17 apiece.
Kammeran Daniels topped Cumberland’s scoring list with 17 points while Zach Schurr had 15 and Kymiri Turner 14.
While the Waterdogs clinched first place at 5-0 in the White Division with Thursday’s win, the closest meet of the season took place in Calhoun where the Catoosa Great White Sharks remaining unbeaten with a slim two-point win over the Blue Barracudas by a scant 404-402 final score.
The Fairyland Flash stayed right on Catoosa heels with a 443-356 win at Red Bank. Fairyland’s only loss was to Catoosa by nine points on June 13.
Catoosa and Calhoun will wrap up the regular-season with a makeup meet at Fort Oglethorpe on Tuesday while the always-exciting Bill Caulkins City Meet will be held in the same pool on Friday and Saturday.
The Ooltewah Tidal Waves are the defending champs and are heavily favored to win again.
(email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)