University City

Swim teams bind neighborhoods with exercise, fun

When thermometers climb to almost record highs, many cool off by taking a dip in the nearest pool. Many subdivisions in the Davis Lake-Eastfield neighborhood have private pools open to residents - and some with swim teams.

Skybrook, on the outskirts of the Davis Lake-Eastfield neighborhood, is one of those communities. The team competes against three other area neighborhood swim teams - Wellington, Davis Lake and Cedarfield --in a Triad Swim League. The teams are open to residents of the neighborhoods only.

The 125 swimmers on the Skybrook Storm team range in age from 4 to 18 and compete in swim meets with other teams in the league. The Skybrook community established the swim team about 10 years ago and partnered with the other neighborhoods to form a nonprofit league.

"Each team swims against the other teams twice, one home and one away-date, so there are six meets (per year). Then we do a championship ..." says Bill Darrenkamp, one of five committee members leading the Skybrook Storm.

The swim team committee consists of parents of swim team members. The committee coordinates meets, volunteer schedules and concessions. "We award a trophy for the regular season champs and one for the championship, as well," he said.

The championship is held at the Nomad Aquatics & Fitness, a private aquatic center in Huntersville owned by coach Steve Billings, a retired coach from North Mecklenburg High School. Nomad has its own team, and many of the local swim teams, including Skybrook Storm, have members and coaches on the Nomad team. The Nomad team is open to any member of the center.

Some team members have also participated in their school swim teams. "In school, we're more competitive and serious about our times," says Mackenzie Obrien, a student at Cox Mill High School.

Neighborhood swim teams provide an outlet for many young people. "Kids push each other to get better by being on a team," says Darrenkamp. "Swimming (creates) a cross-gender camaraderie which you don't get in a lot of sports. Plus, it's a life sport; you can swim your whole life."

Ethan Koch, 7, really enjoys his first year on the Skybrook team. "You can learn a lot of things from other people," he says.

When swim teams compete, neighborhoods win familiarity and support. One of the benefits for neighborhoods that have swim leagues is that it "helps families who may not live near one another meet," says Darrenkamp. It "boosts neighborhood spirit, (and it's a) positive activity for the kids."

But the kids aren't the only ones who benefit; so do their coaches and their parents. Skybrook Storm coaches Clay Perry and Chris Tilque love the feeling of giving back to the community.

"I grew up in the neighborhood, so I've seen most of these kids grow up," says Perry, 17. Perry and Tilque swam for their school teams: Perry for Cox Middle School, Tilque for Mallard Creek High School, and will swim for Towson University in Maryland during the next school year.

Alice Powe's favorite thing about the swim team is that "my children love it." Powe, a committee member, has been working with the Skybrook Storm for about five years.

The Triad Swim League championship will be held July 9 at the Nomad Aquatic & Fitness Center. The meet is open to the public.