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Stroke of success

Swimmer+Roland+Chang+%2810%29+showing+off+his+talent+at+a+swim+meet.
Swimmer Roland Chang (10) showing off his talent at a swim meet.

Swimmer Roland Chang (10) showing off his talent at a swim meet.

Yeow Chang

Yeow Chang

Swimmer Roland Chang (10) showing off his talent at a swim meet.

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Breath. Stroke. Breath. Stroke. This is the rhythm in every swimmer’s mind as they race to the end of their lane. The 2015-16 swimming season has been one of the more successful swimming seasons in the past few years here at White Station. The 19-athlete swimming squad made their way to the top in the city and twenty-sixth in the state behind the leadership of WSHS teacher and coach Rachel Kannady.

“Not all athletes wear shoes,” swimmer Roland Chang (10) said.

That common saying holds a significant amount of weight. Swimming is a commonly overlooked sport. Its absence from the world of mainstream pro-sports makes it less desirable for many people to watch. However, the art of swimming can be very competitive and difficult to master.

“Try putting your face in water and holding your breath while simultaneously running and moving your arms as fast as you can,” Chang said.

The rigorous schedule of a swimmer can be frustrating as well. Multiple swim meets a month is one of the most challenging parts of being a competitive swimmer. Practice was a key aspect of getting this team to state finals, and they did a ton of it. Adding academics into the mix increases the challenge.

“We had a whole group of [weekly] regional meets with even more on top of that,” Avi Dixit (9) said.

Of the sports teams at WSHS, the swimming team consistently has the highest average GPA. Despite meeting seven to nine times per week, student swimmers keep academics as their top priority. Swimmer Mary Katherine DeWane (12) was even named a national merit finalist.

“Sometimes, it is difficult to find time to practice. Because I never joined a formal team, my practice schedule was much more flexible and I could prioritize any schoolwork or other activities as they came. Even though it was difficult to fit everything in, it was rewarding to see my hard work pay off when I dropped time in the county meet,” DeWane said.

White Station, like many other high schools, is not known mostly for its swimming program. High school football, basketball and soccer tend to take the spotlight when it comes to athlete exposure and overall coverage. However, underdog sports like swimming seem to be on the rise. Just this 2015-16 school year, the Spartan swimming team was ranked amongst the top in the city for overall team achievement. The boys achieved first in the city, the girls placing third. Personal achievements for WSHS swimmers have been even more remarkable this season in several different swimming categories.

“In the county, we did not place but we achieved eight top 10 swims and 14 top-16 swims,” Kannady said.

The 2015-16 Spartan swim team is surprisingly diverse. The 19 swimmer team features five freshman swimmers. Larger, more competitive teams from Tennessee travel to compete every year at the state level. This did not keep Kannady and her team from performing at a high level. The Spartan swimmers achieved a ranking of tenth in their region and 24th in the state of Tennessee.

“Going to state and participating in it was my favorite part of the season,” Dixit said.  

Encouragement from coaches is a big part of any sport, and swimming is no exception. The rigorous sport can take a mental and physical toll. Motivation and the will to continue are two big aspects that have always been a part of White Station swimming culture.

“Mrs. Kannady is our biggest supporter and cheerleader,” Chang said. “She is there for every event even though we might miss it.”

This past season has been a huge improvement for the team compared to the 2014-15 season, where the swim squad did not qualify for the 2015 state championship. This year, they placed 26th out of 181 teams. In 2008, this team swam their way to a state championship in addition to a plethora of other regional awards. Coach Kannady is hoping for a 2017 state championship.

“Eventually, I’d like to see us bringing home a championship trophy, but we’ll see,” Kannady said.

This past 2015-16 WSHS swimming season has been one to remember, not only for the school, but for the athletes and coaches as well. The rise of swimming is one that should be expected for the future at White Station.

As a famous Pixar character once said, “Just keep swimming…Just keep swimming…”

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Stroke of success