FAIRBORN — Getting into the swim of things.
When London High School sophomore Emily Bennett and senior Ethan Pozy took to the water at Wright State University recently, it continued a historic campaign for their Madison County educational institution.
They are representing the Red Raiders as part of a program through the Champaign Family YMCA for the opportunity to compete in the pool, even if their school district doesn’t sponsor swimming as an Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) sport.
“Both Emily and Ethan are exceptional kids,” said London City Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Lou Kramer. “They revel in being the first swimmers from London and are fantastic representatives for our school.”
At Wright State, Bennett placed fifth out of 50 swimmers in the 100-meter breaststroke, while Pozy continued to improve his personal time in the 100-meter backstroke. A few days later at Trotwood-Madison, Bennett bested all swimmers in the 100 breaststroke and 100 freestyle, while Pozy continued to shorten his times in both the 100 backstroke and 50m freestyle.
According to Kramer, it all began in the fall of 2015 when Champaign’s YMCA launched a winter swim team for swimmers ages five through 18. The team has continued to grow during its two plus-years with members representing each Champaign County school district and a several school districts outside of the county. Currently in its third season, the team has grown from 11 swimmers to 35, seven of whom are from London. Kramer’s son Ethan, a freshman at Mechanicsburg High School, is the oldest of the original swimmers from the inaugural season.
“Given the growth of the Y team over the first two seasons, I proposed a partnership to allow swimmers from high schools, which do not offer swimming as an interscholastic sport, the opportunity to compete,” Kramer said, adding that this year, two student-athletes each from London and Mechanicsburg High Schools have chosen to participate. “The partnership comes at no cost to local school districts, but provides student athletes the chance to compete in high school meets, advance in OHSAA post-season competition, and earn a varsity letter for their respective high schools.”
Kramer explained that students interested in participating that attend local school districts join the Champaign YMCA Flying Fish swim team at their own expense and cover the cost of all entry fees. By being a part of the YMCA team, swimmers are able to train with the team, and participate in preseason meets and YMCA championship meets after the high school season has concluded. Additionally, the swimmers represent their individual schools in interscholastic competition. Student athletes are required to meet and maintain all scholarship, financial, athletic, conduct, transportation, and any other requirements mandated by their school district.
Kramer and Bart DeNijs — who coach the YMCA swimmers — were approved to serve in the same capacity with both London and Mechanicsburg by their respective school boards. Working together with the athletic directors of both schools, a common meet schedule was developed.
This new sport has been especially gratifying for Bennett; a seasoned swimmer with a competitive spirit.
“I am so thankful to Coach Kramer, (London High School Athletic Director) Jimmy Wolverton, and Coach DeNijs for giving the LHS kids this opportunity to swim on a high school team,” said Bennett’s mother Suzy, herself a former competitive swimmer and the President of the Madison County Marlins Swim Team which was established in 2016. “Emily is very passionate about swimming and I’m glad she has a chance to enjoy her passion year-round.”
Pozy made the decision to swim to keep himself in shape for track, and according to his coach, is reaping the benefits.
“Although he definitely looks the part of successful swimmer, Ethan had never swam competitively,” Kramer said of Pozy. “Ethan regularly competes in the 50 freestyle and the 100 backstroke (and) his improvement over the course of the season has been remarkable.”
The coach is equally impressed with Bennett, who he points out routinely puts in time in the pool outside of practices and meets.
“Emily has had a large amount of improvement this year, and it is paying dividends (as) she has scored in every meet in the 100 breaststroke,” Kramer said of Bennett. “As a sophomore, Emily is laying the groundwork this year to be a district qualifier later in her high school career.”
A swimmer himself, Kramer began competing in the pool at age five. He is in his third season of assisting the Champaign Family YMCA team. Over the course of the last 22 years, he has coached a variety of sports (at varying levels) in addition to swimming including golf, cross country, track, basketball, soccer, and baseball.
For being in its first year of existence, the program has gone ‘swimmingly,’ to say the least.
“This partnership has worked out to be exactly what I hoped for (as) it is extremely rewarding to watch the kids compete to better themselves in practice and to perform at meets,” Kramer said. “It is equally as fun watching kids from different high schools come together, form new friendships, and to compete in a sport they enjoy.”
Jeff Gates is a contributor for The Madison Press.