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Jefferson swimmers take the plunge

November 16, 1997

Jefferson swimmers take the plunge

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer, Charles Town

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Jefferson High School varsity swim coach Glenn Edwards demonstrated to the teenage girls the proper way to dive into the pool.

After each dive, he explained to the group, inexperienced at competitive swimming, what they did wrong or congratulated them on what they did right.

"That's too deep," he pointed out, as one diver splashed into the pool. "You'll lose seconds if you dive that deep."

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Edwards was patient with them. After all, until Nov. 10, the Jefferson High swim team had never practiced before.

Until two mothers interested in their children's swimming got together this summer, the school had not even considered forming a swim team, Edwards said.

Karen Hill and Olivia Wendt said they met in June while signing their children up for summer swimming programs. Their children had competed during the summer, but the two mothers were interested in the formation of a program during the school year.

They called state athletic officials, county school officials, circulated a petition and churned up enough interest that the Jefferson County Board of Education recently approved having a swim team. The board hired a swim coach Nov. 10.

"I figured if at first we had a dozen swimmers, this would be a good year," Edwards said.

He was surprised when 47 students joined the team.

"Competitive swimming is coming to the Eastern Panhandle," Edwards said.

Swimming is not yet a state-sanctioned sport, meaning that the 42 schools across West Virginia will not have the chance to compete for an official state title, Edwards said.

The Jefferson High team will get a chance early on to see how it ranks against other teams from across the state. Its first meet is the Morgantown Invitational on Dec. 6 at the West Virginia University pool.

Martinsburg High and Hedgesville High started swim teams last year and will be natural rivals for the Jefferson High team, Edwards said.

Edwards, a driver's education teacher at the high school and coach of the varsity boys golf team in the spring, has some experience as a swim coach. He was the first coach for the Jefferson Park team in 1972 and helped organize the Interstate Summer Swim League in 1976. He's also coached swim teams at the Hagerstown YMCA.

The Jefferson High swim team is practicing at the Shepherd College indoor swimming pool, squeezing in practices after the scheduled family swim time there.

The hours of the school night practices - 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. - were questioned by some school board officials, but parents said the late nights are worth it to give their children a chance to be active in a sport.

Many of the students on the swim team are experienced swimming competitors through an active summer program in Jefferson County and surrounding areas. But this is the first chance some have had to join a swimming program and belong to an athletic team.

"I love to swim, but being on a team is a new experience," said freshman Jessie Carner, 15.

Senior Summer Thomas, 18, said she wishes the school had had a swim team when she was a freshman. She has never been on a varsity team before.

"I thought it would be pretty interesting," Thomas said.

She said members had talked about how the team can start traditions and set records that will be followed by swim teams for years to come.

Hill and Wendt said one of the things that motivated them was a desire to provide opportunity to students who otherwise would not get the chance to be on a sports team.

Wendt said some students never fit into the niche of basketball or football, but can be swimmers.

"The kids who were swimmers weren't getting the shot at a high school sport," Wendt said.

"Swimming is something you can do for a lifetime," Hill said.

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