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News Story
Updated: 10/05/2013 08:00:04AM

Bartow swim team makes its mark

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PHOTO BY LARRY JEWETT

Kimmy Chang prepares to make the backstroke leg in lane 6 during the quad match at Gandy Pool.

PHOTO BY LARRY JEWETT

Youlei Li touches the far side of the pool before returning in meet competition for Bartow High School.

PHOTO BY QUENTIN WHITAKER

With trophy in hand, the winning BHS swim team celebrates the championship at the Florida Southern College Classic Meet in September.

PHOTO BY LARRY JEWETT

Members of the Bartow Swim Team who attended the Sept. 26 quad match at Gandy Pool. Back row from left to right: Coach Quentin Whitaker, Tyler Lawhead, Grady Williamson, Agustin Tavares, Layne Wiltrout, Tomas Carrilo, Youlei Li, Nick Beatty, Hunter Sullivan, Ben Putnam, & Matthew Gill. Front row from left to right: Coach Nicole Whitaker, Brooke Renna, Kimmy Chang, Cheyenne Prentice, Brenda Wang, Jennifer Carr, Kayla Jackson, Alexis Gann, Aileen Cruz-Lezama, McKenzie Newton, & RJ Aytona

By LARRY JEWETT

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With one championship already under their belts in the 2013 season, the Bartow High School swim team continues to push ahead to gain more honors.

There are just a few events remaining before the important County Meet and subsequent Florida High School Athletic Association events.

Bartow took top honors in September at the Florida Southern College Classic Meet, claiming the team title in their category.

The team will look for a good showing in their next event, the Ridge Championship Meet, which will be contested Thursday (Oct. 10) at the Rowdy Gaines Pool in Winter Haven. That location will also serve as the site for the Polk County Meet, which will be held two weeks from today (Oct. 19) for the swimming competition.

Squad members are pushing themselves to work harder and swim faster as they set their sights on the upcoming district tournament, which will be held during the week of Oct. 28. Top finishers will earn the right to move on to the regionals and the elite from the regionals will get their chance to represent their school at the state tournament. This year’s state tournament site is the Sailfish Splashpark Aquatic Athletics Center in Stuart.

It has been a long spell since a Bartow athlete won a state championship. Ed Stuart claimed the title in the 100-meter freestyle in 1950 as a representative of the school. Two divers, Jay Thompson in 1993 and Chris Dunn in 1995, complete Bartow’s roll of state champions.

Bartow’s current team does not participate in the diving competition, focusing all efforts on swimming events.

During a recent meet with Lakeland, Teneroc and Hardee at the Gandy Pool at Kelley Recreation Center in Lakeland, the Bartow team held their own against competition that included rosters far greater in number than what the Jackets could put in the pool. Each swimmer realizes that the persons in the other lanes aren’t the competition, but rather the competition comes from within. In this sport, you have to be the best you can be since you can’t do anything to deter the opponent from their objective.

Through the individual and medley events, the team showed spirit and sportsmanship, fighting to the end. Team members who were not competing in a particular event loomed close by to offer moral support and encouragement while coaches Nicole and Quentin Whitaker checked times and prepared participants of upcoming events focused.

Like many of their opponents, Bartow is always on the road. Many of the matches are held in Lakeland (Gandy) or Winter Haven (Rowdy Gaines), which gives some familiarity with the surroundings. Often, the fans are friends and families, who gather at the opposite end of the pool from the starting blocks, shouting encouragement and congratulations.

It doesn’t get the headlines, but the effort of these athletes is strong and committed as any in sport (Maybe even moreso as one team member was doing homework between events). The purpose of winning is clear and the goal to drive oneself to be the best doesn’t begin with the start of the event. It’s a commitment that began the day these team members made the commitment to be a part of the squad.


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