Swimmers from Blue Ridge Early College and Highlands School competed in their final swim meet of the season on Oct. 9 at the Buncombe County Schools Aquatics Center. Other middle schools competing included Cane Creek, Hanger Hall School for Girls, Macon, Rabun Gap-Nacoochee, Rugby, and Valley Springs.
Zander Coward and Peyton Kaylor scored a total of 48 points for the Bobcats at the most recent meet. Coward placed 12th in the 50-yard breaststroke and 7th in the 100-yard freestyle. Kaylor placed 5th in the 50-yard butterfly and 2nd in the 100-yard individual medley (IM).
Coach Steve Hott said BREC swimmers focused on setting school records in as many events as possible.
“Events were chosen for each swimmer based on their abilities, their desires, the expected competition, and any records that they could set,” said Hott. “Peyton Kaylor and Zander Coward established all of the individual Blue Ridge Middle School individual records this year. With continued participation, I expect that they will break all of them next year.”
Coward currently holds the school record in 50-yard breaststroke and 50-yard backstroke. Kaylor currently holds the school record in 100-yard freestyle, 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard IM, and 50-yard butterfly.
Coward said he learned all he knows about competitive swimming this middle school season.
“I learned how the meets work and that you only get to do two events,” he said.
He added that he enjoyed representing his school and had some words of advice for any student interested in joining the middle school program next year.
“It’s hard work, but you should do it,” Coward said. “The highlight of middle school swim for me was doing the 50-yard breaststroke and seeing everyone cheering for me.”
Not only were coaches, parents, and other teammates cheering, but the Highlands Middle School swim team lined the edge of the pool encouraging Coward and Kaylor to do their best.
Kaylor enjoyed being part of the first ever swimming program at BREC.
“It’s fun, but you gotta practice,” said Kaylor. “Some people just don’t understand that concept.”
Looking ahead to next year, Kaylor would like to see more students join middle swimming so that BREC can have a relay team.
“The highlight of middle school swim for me was setting school records,” he said.
Vivian Kennedy, Lillian Rutter, and Tate Wilson scored a total of 20 points for the Highlanders. Kennedy placed 23rd in the 50-yard freestyle and 23rd in the 50-yard breaststroke. Rutter placed 35th in the 50-yard freestyle and 23rd in the 50-yard breaststroke. Wilson placed 9th in the 50-yard breaststroke and 8th in the 100-yard IM.
Kennedy reflected on this season’s middle school swim team experience and said she learned to “swim smart.”
“The highlight of middle school swim for me was having fun with friends and swimming,” said Kennedy.
She added that her teammates and swimmers from BREC all did well.
Lillian Rutter said life on the swim team can be a challenge, but to just roll with it.
“I learned to know we’re swimming against 8th graders and to get over it,” said Rutter. “I would say good luck and this sport takes practice. As Coach Steve says, ‘Practice makes permanent,’ so go to as many practices as you can and actually stretch. The highlight of middle school swim team was definitely all of the teamwork we had and how great we did.”
Tate Wilson said he learned valuable lessons this season that were not specific to swim team.
“I learned that I need to keep good grades in school and that school always comes first for everything,” said Wilson. “I also learned that doing things with friends is a good way to get closer to someone.”
Wilson added, “The highlight of middle school swim was the meets for me. I just love swimming at school meets in general, but the fact that I got to swim with my friends made it so much better.”
Although students from BREC and Highlands School compete on separate school-level teams, these swimmers are members of the larger Plateau-based team the Highlands Hurricanes, said Plateau Swim Coach Steve Hott.
“I am doing, or trying to do, four school swim teams (Blue Ridge Middle School, Highlands Middle School, Highlands Varsity, and, in the future, Summit Middle School) to give members of the Highlands Hurricanes who are already on a swim team an opportunity to be on a school team, which is a different experience from age group swimming,” said Hott.
Hott said his proudest coaching moments included the tremendous improvement of all 9 swimmers (two from BREC and seven from Highlands School). In particular, he noted Peyton Kaylor’s 100-yard freestyle and butterfly as well as Lillian Rutter’s overall improvement this season.
Hott was also proud that these programs increased awareness and interest in swimming from both schools. He noted the two brand new swimmers to the sport: Zander Coward (7th grade) from BREC and Peyton West (6th grade) from Highlands.
“I think that takes a certain amount of self-confidence and fortitude,” he said.
As the first official middle school swim season for both schools ended, swimmers and coaches looked ahead to next year.
Hott said that he will continue to focus his attention on “building great people one stroke at a time.”
However, with regard to the inaugural middle school swim programs, Hott’s goals include growing the number of swimmers at each school so that existing swimmers can swim on relay teams. This means that each school will need a minimum of four boys and four girls.
The Hurricanes host a home meet at the Highlands Pool on Saturday, Nov. 16.
Article and photos by Kristy McCall