By Candace Barczyk
And then there were 14.
What began as one student looking for a swim coach has now become the Vermilion High School Swim Team, and coach Brett Dawson said the team is looking to continue the growth that will keep it swimming along in the future.
It all started with one student, Jack Rini, whose mother, Colleen, had approached Dawson about coaching her son. Dawson, who was a swimmer all four of his years at the College of Wooster, said he would take on Rini. “It was during the 2015-16 school year, and I had Jack in band. We went to the athletic director, who said we could compete.” Rini made 2nd in districts.
After one season with just Rini on the team, last season Dawson added Trinity Patton, a senior who planned to compete for the Ohio State University synchronized swimming team. Dawson said Patton had been involved in the sports for years, but actual swimming is component of the program. Dawson said Patton made it onto the Buckeyes’ B team this year, and she, too was in Dawson’s band class and reached out after hearing about Dawson. Rini was seeded second in the 100 and placed 6th overall.
This year, Dawson said he and interested parents talked to the school board, athletic director, and the superintendent, who said the team has to show it is sustainable. “They are going to look at it in a year to see if it is.” Dawson said he is encouraged by the number growing so quickly, and said now that the word is out, the program can only grow from there. Currently, the team competes as a club sport, and does all its own fundraising. The team’s major cost is for renting lanes at Mercy Recreation Center in Amherst. “It costs $4,465 to rent the pool for the season. A lot of the reason we can do what we do is because of the support of the parents and the community.”
Dawson said Vermilion is fortunate in that it already has two “feeder” teams for those in grades K-8 – the YMCA Torpedoes, which teaches swimming, and USA, which Dawson said is more about the individual swimmer. “Swimming is a sport anybody can participate in. It’s a team sport, but I always tell the students they are really swimming against their past self. The goal is not to get first place, it’s to decrease your time.”
Because Vermilion is a city on Lake Erie, Dawson said when he started in the district, he asked who was in charge of the swim team. “They said ‘What swim team?’ We want to see the team serve the kids. The more kids we have, the better, and the cheaper it is. We have kids who want to be a part of it, but they are financially disadvantaged. I tell them to come to practice and we’ll figure it out.” Practice runs Monday through Friday, 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Mercy.
The team, which has the longest season of all the winter sports, starts in early November, and, if all goes well, will run into the end of February. “We are cautiously optimistic about Jack getting a state berth.”
Dawson said he is encouraged by the community support and said the program will continue to grow from its infancy with its continued backing. Local businesses and individuals looking to support the Vermilion swim team and help the Sailors grow their program can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org about making a donation.