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YMCA Looking to Start New Chapter With Swim Team
Written by Bradley Schlegel Correspondent
2015-07-08

Upper Perk YMCA Gators swimmer Kevin Himmelwright glides under the water seconds before surfacing in the boys 200-yard medley relay in last Thursday night's meet at Upper Perk.

        Amidst a season of transition for the Upper Perkiomen YMCA Gators, Jackie Hammill expressed mixed emotions.  She said several of the team's older members struggled with the closing of the Kistler-Bitting Park swimming pool.  "A lot of us grew up there," said Hammill, a recent graduate of Upper Perkiomen High School.

        According to Hammill, the swim team quickly adapted to its new home. Approximately 125 members between the ages of six and 18 have access to an indoor and outdoor pool at the new facility, located at 1399 Quakertown Road in Upper Hanover Township.  "This is a great facility for us to train," she said.

        Mitchell Cairns, who will be a senior at the high school in the fall, sometimes catches himself using the team's old nickname.  "We're not the Otters anymore," he said. "It's kind of soft. I like the new name. Gators sounds so much tougher. It's a plus."

        With a new head coach, Miranda Reasoner, the new nickname, and new team colors of blue and orange, YMCA officials are looking forward to a new chapter for the team, according to Katherine Gold, the facility's aquatics director.  "There are a lot of old faces, and some new faces," she said. "It's just a matter of blending the two."

        According to Gold, the program recently implemented a year-around swim team. She said the team will participate in winter meets and practice 12 months a year.  "There has been incredible interest in this," Gold said. "Hopefully this will make the team very competitive."

        Gold described Reasoner, the facility's advanced aquatics director, as the ideal person to lead the team. 

        "My long-term goal for our program as the head coach is to continually grow and develop our swimmers to succeed to their highest potential both in and out of the water," Reasoner wrote in a July 7 email.

        Under Reasoner's previous tutelage, four swimmers from the YMCA of the Sandhills (YOTS) program in Fayetteville, N.C. reached the YMCA Nationals during the 2010-11 season.

        Reasoner – who grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina – has led swimmers to YMCA Nationals including National Finalists, USA Junior Nationals, Middle Atlantic and NC Junior Olympics, Eastern Zones, Southern Zones, Top 3 Middle Atlantic Rankings, USA Scholastic All-American status, and YMCA All American status, according to information posted on the Upper Perkiomen YMCA's website.

        This fall, the team plans on competing in a series of YMCA and USA Swimming duals, invitationals and national level championships, according to Reasoner.  "Miranda has a very strong history of building successful programs," Gold said.

Cairns says there's a good chance Reasoner can make the program great.  "I'm really excited about seeing what happens in a few years" he said.

        Midway through their dual meet season in the Tri-County Summer League, the Gators are 1-2. According to Hammill, individual improvement is the focus since their numbers pale in comparison to several league opponents.

        Hammill, who plans on swimming competitively at Weidner University, competes for the Gators in the 100-meter butterfly, backstroke and individual medley. She described the butterfly as her best stroke.  "I've been swimming it since I was young," Hammill said.

        She also serves as coach for the swimmers aged 12 and under. According to Hammill, most of her pupils are good listeners who want to get better.  "I love it," she said. "It's nice to have an influence on the kids."

        During the summer, Cairns, a member of the high school's swimming and water polo teams, competes in the 100 free, the 100 Individual Medley, 200 free and the breaststroke in the 200 Medley Relay. 


 

 

 

 

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