Swim team hopes city meet will qualify more for state

When the 2012 Olympics open on July 27, America’s eyes will turn to its favorite summer Olympic event: swimming. It will be looking for another Phelps-like performance and be cheering for American greatness. When the games close on Aug. 12, though, not a stray eye will remain on the aquatic sport. Swimming requires hard work, commitment, and natural speed. In these three categories, Bearden High School’s swim team, the Aqua Dogs, is head and shoulders above other East Tennessee schools. Their only real competition is the Hardin Valley Hawks, whom they beat in competition on Jan. 8. “They were like our number one competition, like that’s what we were worried about,” co-captain Peter Blaze said. “No other team in Knox County can really deal with us.” The 30-point win in the marquee matchup puts the Aqua Dogs in prime position to win the city meet on Saturday. And with their City Title probably safe for another year, the Bulldogs can focus on qualifying the most swimmers they can for the state meet. “People are less worried about (winning), and people are more just going for state,” Blaze said. This, however, is plenty motivation enough as the city meet is the place to set personal records and add a mass number of swimmers to the state team. “Everybody gets really hyped up,” co-captain Kat Barker said. “People throw out all of their best times; I know last year we had like 99% best times on the whole team.” And while these best times may mean meet records for Bearden’s best swimmers, they can simply be a culmination of hard work for most of Bearden’s squad of over 100 swimmers. “We’re a club sport; we’re not like really hard core about competition,” Blaze said. “The elite swimmers are, but there are so many lower swimmers that are just going for their best times.” The team has been putting in pool hours since August and was in the middle of their season during finals. “Some people fail to see how hard our team works,” co-captain Chris Goodman said. Goodman works a little harder than the majority of the team, as he swims daily for Pilot. He is the only Bearden captain – there are five of them (senior Ashley Campbell and junior Cole Graham unmentioned) – who swims with Pilot and is the leader among those on Bearden’s team who swim with both squads. The question for all of these super talented swimmers, though, is whether or not the extra hours of commitment are worth it to be an Aqua Dog. “I get a lot out of it just because Pilot is more of an individual sport,” Goodman said. “You’re doing it for yourself and bettering your times. “Bearden is about winning and being a team.” Jacob Steimer is the Sports Editor for The Bark. Follow The Bark on Twitter @BeardenBARK and like The Bark (Bearden High School) on Facebook.