What better way to spend the summer than hanging out at the neighborhood pool every day?
That’s what 10-year-old Ellie Gerloff said she is thinking of for summer vacation.
But Ellie and about 250 other school-age Highland Creek youths will be doing more in the water than soaking up the sun and playing Marco Polo. Those students are members of the Highland Creek Hurricanes summer swim team, which competes in the North Star Swim League.
Hurricanes leaders measure the success of the program by developing swimmers’ strokes in the water and the smiles on swimmers’ faces, but it’s hard to deny Highland Creek’s competitive achievements.
The Hurricanes’ senior-division team has won the past six North Star championships. The 2014 season started June 6-7 and will culminate in the year-end league championship meet July 12 at the Huntersville Family Fitness and Aquatic Center.
“I really like it,” said Ellie, a rising fifth-grader at Cox Mill Elementary. “It’s fun coming to practice. It’s nice to say I get to come to the pool every day, but I don’t get to splash and have fun. But I do get to jump in the water and have fun with my friends.”
Gerloff and her 8-year-old brother Jay joined the swim team last summer, a year after parents Josh and Katie Gerloff moved the family to Highland Creek.
Ellie now sets goals for herself, such as shaving time off her freestyle event this summer.
Ellie Drescher, an athletic rising seventh-grader at Ridge Road Middle School, considers her two favorite sports swimming and soccer. She also plays tennis and runs 5-kilometer races and triathlons.
Although she’s only 12, Drescher has been a member of the Hurricanes senior competitive team for four years. Highland Creek’s junior division team, its developmental team, consists of fewer than half the program’s members.
“I like to do my best and get ribbons,” said Drescher, whose 9-year-old sister Ava and 5-year-old brother Branson also participate. “But even if I don’t win, it’s still the best time in the summer.”
Some Highland Creek families have multiple swimmers who have participated in the program over many years. Mark and Michelle McLauchlan have lived in Highland Creek for 16 years, and their oldest child, Bennett, 13, started swimming for the Hurricanes six years ago.
Twins Molly and Will, 11, started swimming a year later.
Mark McLauchlan has been president of the Hurricanes’ board of directors for the past two years. He leads an active group of parents who are required to fill volunteer jobs including timer, stroke and turn judge and child gatherer, tasked with coordinating hundreds of children at meets.
The Hurricanes team was formed 19 years ago; practices and meets are at Highland Creek’s Christenbury Pool.
Current head coach Eric Anderson, also head swim coach at Pfeiffer University, started with the team in 2006. His 9-year-old son Aidan is a team member.
Anderson credits assistant coach Ann Gregson with much of the team’s success. Gregson has been on staff for every one of Highland Creek’s league championships.
Ashley Souffrant started swimming with Highland Creek as an 8-year-old, and this year the 17-year-old Lake Norman Charter student is serving as an assistant coach. Based on the attention she gets at meets, she’s a favorite among young Hurricanes swimmers.
“It really helps being a swimmer and knowing what (the young swimmers) go through,” said Souffrant. “It helps knowing what you’ve done as a swimmer, and (it) helps (me) coach them better.”
Other North Star Swim League teams include the University City Winchester Waves and Lake Norman-based teams River Run, Wynfield, Northstone, Peninsula and Hamptons.