Gainesville High’s swim team doesn’t have a lot of members — seven on the boys team, 10 on the girls — but thanks to a number of talented swimmers, that doesn’t stop them from competing in a handful of events.
Friday night at 6 at the Frances Meadows Aquatic Center, Gainesville will be among a handful of schools participating in the Hall County Championships, which is in its third year of existence. Also competing are Chestatee, Flowery Branch, North Hall and Riverside Military Academy.
Although the event has always been held at Frances Meadows, Gainesville is the hosting school this year, meaning it is responsible for providing volunteers, covering expenses up front and dividing them amongst the other competing schools.
Though, numerically speaking, Gainesville’s rosters don’t stack up with other Hall County programs such as Flowery Branch and Riverside — the Lady Falcons and Eagles are both the two-time defending county champions — Red Elephants coach John Price said his teams will use this event to improve his swimmers.
Some of his swimmers will use tonight to prepare for next month’s state meet.
“We like to look at individual wins, because we’re smaller compared to other teams,” Price said. “Our boys team is probably the smallest in the county, but they’re usually within a top-three finish in certain events. We have two individuals on the boys side that have qualified for state in two events each, and one relay team that has qualified in an event.
“Swimming is a team sport and an individual sport, so I’m always looking for the kids to improve their personal bests,” he added. “I encourage kids not to look at the small stature of our team because we can always improve our best times. We’ve got some quick swimmers and I love to see them make state cuts.”
Junior Andy Doan has qualified for the state meet for the second year in a row. He’s eligible to swim in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2 minutes, 7.62 seconds (state qualifying time is 2:12), the 100 backstroke with a time of 56.69 (qualifying time is 1:00) and the 200 freestyle relay.
Doan’s main goal Friday night is to shave three-tenths of a second off his 50 freestyle time of 23.8, so he can become state-eligible in that event as well. But he also wants the Red Elephants to challenge the bigger programs, and he thinks they have a shot.
“I think it’s more of population against skill,” Doan said. “Flowery Branch has a lot of people, but not the skill we do. That’s not to sound condescending, we’re all friends, and we’re going to race and put everything aside and give it our all.
“It’s really exciting to compete against people I know. Some of the people who are faster than me are on my team, so racing my teammates also makes it a fun experience.”
Price said the girls team is working toward competing at the state level and that top-five finishes in certain events are a realistic goal for tonight’s meet. He’s enjoyed watching the Lady Red Elephants progress this season.
“The girls team is growing,” Price said. “We have a lot of new swimmers who started last year and are maturing. We have no year-round swimmers and they’re all new to the sport, so it’s been exciting watching them get better. Some started as freshman and are now juniors, so it’s good to see them stick to it.”
In terms of the big picture, Price wants to sustain and grow the swim program, which has been around for decades.
“For me and the demographic we serve at Gainesville, we want to keep the program in the vision of the athletic department and give the kids the chance to try it,” he said. “We don’t hold tryouts, and any kid who wants to swim can, so it’s an unusual opportunity for our students to participate in a sport.
“Continuing to grow is our long-term goal.”