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April 17, 2014

Sharks come up for air after strong season

Cooperstown Crier

---- — The Cooperstown Clark Sports Center’s Sharks had one of their best seasons in years with the boys placing ninth all around in the Gold Championship, as well as several individuals taking home individual honors. 

The Sharks team consists of boys and girls ages 5 to 18 years old and has been coached by Kristen Griger for nine years.

“We had 76 kids turnout this year, which is bigger than usual. Although membership fluctuates, it’s a popular program,” said Griger. “It’s amazing that our little team went to this big championship and did so well. It’s a big deal.”

Griger said she attributes the success not only to the swimmers, but also her swimming instructors at the Clark.

“Matt Phillips, Lindsey Bailey and Katherine Haseley were all remarkable working with the team. We couldn’t have accomplished this much without them,” she said.

Before going for the gold, teams first compete in the Silver Championship which includes almost all swimmers because it is not based on qualifying times. At the event, three swimmers in particular stood out. Liam Spencer took second overall in the boys 9-to-10-age group. Josh Geci placed third overall in ages 11 to 12. Will Weldon won first overall in 11 to 12.

The team members have to qualify by time in the Gold Championships, and the times are challenging to achieve. The event encompassed 200 racers of which 17 were members of the Sharks competing in the finals. The preliminary races were in the morning and the finals took place that night, making for a long day of competition.

“Its amazing that these kids can go swim these events over and over again and get better and better each time,” said Griger.

The Sharks swam in 83 races and had their individual best times in 79 of them. They broke 25 team records. 

Six of the swimmers made the finals in several of their events. A few of the team members swam all nine events. Ted Mebust, following family tradition, excelled, at eighth overall in the boys 13-to-14-age group.

Club swimming is different from high school competition, said Griger. In high school there’s more emphasis on the team numbers. In club competition, while team scores are taken into account, the focus is on individual achievement. Boys race boys and girls race girls in their own age bracket.  

The CCS girls swim team competes in the fall so it presents no conflict of interest with club racing. As for the boys, some team members do both. Double practice has huge rewards.

Griger emphasizes the need for recognition for all the swimmers.

“Swimming is a hugely popular sport all over the United States and these swimmers deserve to be acknowledged for their efforts and successes,” she said.

The Sharks belong to the USA Swimmers Club. They compete in the Adirondack region, covering the Cooperstown area and as far north as as Albany and Utica. They also compete in a small league in the Central Valley participating in meets throughout the season.

In December 2013, club members held a swim-a-thon, getting sponsored to swim laps, and collected $2500 to give to the Cooperstown Food Pantry.