Although the snow keeps falling and the temps are freezing, it hasn’t stopped the YMCA Gators Swim Team in Holdrege and Gothenburg from competing, gaining strength and endurance and building lasting friendships all winter long.
The Holdrege team, which started at the Y more than 7 years ago, has grown in popularity. This year, 24 kids ages 5-17 have participated for the entire season, which began in September and will end in March with the state swim meet at the Fremont YMCA.
The Holdrege team practices twice a week for an hour and a half each day with optional practices two more times a week. Although they don’t realize it, the kids often swim two miles during each practice. Twice a year, they are required to swim the mile all at once (that’s 35 laps!)
But, the participants are all smiles. While they are getting healthy, they have also formed close bonds with the other swimmers and consider their teammates “family.”
Meadow Kruback, 16, said she would likely be sitting on the couch if it weren’t for swim team. It has helped her learn to swim better and build up her lung capacity.
“And, it’s a really nice atmosphere to be around,” she said. “Everyone is positive and good to be around.”
Holdrege Coach Heather Smith said she keeps the focus positive by encouraging swimmers to focus on their personal achievements and not just on winning. It’s about swimming a few seconds faster than last time or setting a goal to place in the top six at a meet.
“Everyone swims and everyone wins,” Heather said.
Heather is assisted by Bryan Hanson, whose 13-year-old son, Corey, has participated in swim team at the Y for four years.
The YMCA at Gothenburg Health opened its new facility in April 2018 and started its first indoor swim team this season under the direction of Coach Lisa Jorgensen.
Lisa said 10 swimmers ranging in age from 7 to 16 participated in Gothenburg’s inaugural YMCA winter swim team.
“With all the activities going on, I felt that was a pretty good response,” Lisa said.
While Holdrege and Gothenburg compete against each other in sports like basketball, football and volleyball, they are teammates at swim meets. Heather said the teams partner on relays, and friendships have formed between swimmers from both towns.
Friendships and the family-like bonds that form in swim team are why most kids participate.
Abby Hornaman, 17, is a junior at Holdrege High School and was chosen by her teammates to be a team captain this year.
“I love the family you get from it and the people,” she said.
Abby plans to make swimming a part of her future, possibly participating in swim team in college and working as a swim coach.
Matt Hayes, 16, is the other team captain this year. Matt is homeschooled and has enjoyed the friendships he has made through swim team.
“I love these people,” he said. “It’s like a second family. It’s fun to be able to lead by example to all of my brothers and sisters.”
He said swim team also helped him grow from a scrawny little boy into a strong young man with high goals to someday swim at the YMCA regionals swim competition.
Daneca Almazan, 14, is participating in swim team for the first time this year after her friends encouraged her to join. Swimming is her only sport.
“I like how it’s like another family,” she said of the team. “You can go swim with your friends and get a good workout, too.”