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SHEPHERDSVILLE – A summer tradition in the area continued with increased momentum in 2013 as the Dolphins swimming program continued to attract a large number of local youngsters to competitive swimming.
For over 20 years the program has served Bullitt County, but it has changed some over the past few years. What started as the Bullitt County Dolphins is now the Dolphins at Cooper Farms.
The name change has been gradual over the last three years after the program moved from the local public swimming pools to the pool in the Cooper Farms residential community located just off Mount Washington Road near the Jefferson/Bullitt County line.
Head coach Kathy Abel worked with 92 swimmers over the seven weeks that the team was together in June and July. The team conducted four competitive meets before wrapping up the season two weeks ago with the Louisville Fun League Championships at the Ralph Wright Natatorium on the University of Louisville campus.
The swimming program has made an effort to get swimmers from the Cooper Farms area and with some success, but a slight majority of the team members are still from Bullitt County.
“The number of swimmers has grown each of the last three years,” Abel said of the time that she has been coaching the program.
The coach is hoping that the numbers swell even more next summer. That could get a boost as Abel was recently hired to coach the Bullitt County High School swimming program that competes in the fall and winter. Abel is a teacher at North Bullitt High School.
Unlike most summers, it was not that hot in June and there was a lot of rain. Still, the team only had to cancel one swimming meet and one practice session.
The Dolphins practice four days a week and then were swimming in meets once a week. The other teams in the Louisville Fun League are Harmony Landing, Persimmon Ridge, Polo Fields, Woodmont and Oxmoor.
Practices were conducted in the mornings while the meets were held on Monday evenings. Three of the four meets that the team had this summer were held at the Cooper Farms’ pool. The older swimmers were in the pool from 8 to 9 a.m. while 9 to 12-year old swimmers would be in the pool from 9 to 10 a.m. The swimmers under the age of eight would be in the pool from 10 to 11 a.m.
“We have a few more girls than boys,” Abel pointed out. “We really need more boys in the 11 to 14 age group.”
At each practice, the swimmers will work on both their freestyle and backstroke form. After that, certain swimmers based on their abilities will also swim butterfly and breast stroke work.
The Louisville Fun League added more relays to the meets this year and the swimmers have liked that.
“We’ve been able to fill all the relays,” Abel said. “The kids love the relays. In a meet, those are the most competitive races.”
Not only did the program get a few more swimmers from the Cooper Farms area, but they got a few interested fans from the community. Abel reported seeing local residents walking to the pool and watching some of the evening swim meets.
“We really have grown the Cooper Farms kids,” Abel said. “We hoped that would happen. I’ve noticed that some of the neighbors will be out walking their dogs and will top and talk to the kids and watch the meets.”
There is the normal competition even amongst the swimmers on the team with other sports in the summer along with sports camps and Vacation Bible School along with family vacations.
While the Dolphins do swim in meets, there are those who are part of the team who are more out for recreation than competition. That is fine with Abel who was a competitive swimmer in her youth.
“That is the hardest thing as a summer coach that some are just out here for recreation,” she said. “They want to be out here with their friends and to have fun and that is fine.”
Abel said that most of the swimmers in the older age groups have experience with the Bullitt County High School program. Some of the younger swimmers are looking to move up to that level of competition.
While the meets in the Louisville Fun League are competitive within each race, the team scores really aren’t that important because the size of the teams varies so much.
“We’re doing very well this year,” Abel said of the competitive action. “Some of the teams we won’t beat because of numbers. Some of the teams have year-round swimmers.
“We have been competitive this year,” the coach added. “Our kids have stepped up and improved and done a great job.”
Abel did not have an assistant coach this year, but she did get some help from Karen Schmidt. The team looked at some coaches in the spring but didn’t work out. Abel hopes to have an assistant coach next summer.
Look for more Dolphins photos by Mike Farner in the multimedia section of www.pioneernews.net.