Wednesday, July 25, 2007

SPORTS>>Sharks bite into fourth title

Leader sportswriter

The dynasty continues. The Sherwood Sharks captured their fourth-consecutive Central Arkansas Swim League title this season, and capped the year off with yet another win at the Meet of Champs this weekend at UALR’s Donaghey Center.
The Sharks took the win with a staggering 449 points to run away with the event. The Maumelle Marlins were a distant second with 302 points, and the Bryant Barracudas finished third with 257 points. The Cabot Piranhas ended up fifth in the final standings with 175 points, and the Lonoke Sharkrockets finished in seventh with 52 points.

Both Sherwood and Cabot had their share of record breakers in the event. Delaney Haralson was tops for Sherwood on the girls side, and Thomas Heye helped the Sharks boys division to a runaway win by each breaking four records. Devin Scott broke one record in the 14U group, and all three swimmers received high-point awards in their divisions along with teammate Jake Walters.

Heye’s records came in the 8U freestyle with a time of 15.93, the 25-yard backstroke with a 19.89, the 50-yard backstroke with a 35.73, and the 25-yard breaststroke with a time of 22.61. Haralson took new records in the girls 8U freestyle with a time of 15.90, the 25-yard backstroke with a time of 20.13, the 25-yard breaststroke with a 22.12, and the 25-yard butterfly with a time of 17.41. Scott broke the record in the boys 14U breaststroke with a time of 33.62.

Cabot’s record breaking performances came mostly from the ladies, with Megan Owens, Emily Henard and Vicki Lovellette all turning in record breaking individual performances. The trio also came away with a new record in the girls 18U relay along with teammate Emily Grigsby. John Santiago led the boys side for the Piranhas with new records in the freestyle and breast stroke.

The girls relay team broke the previous record with a 53.49 performance. Owens took the freestyle record in the 14U division with a 28.42, and broke the breaststroke record with a 27.43. Owens also had a record setting time in the IM with a 1:11.63. Lovellette took the IM in the 18U division with a new record of 1:08.53, and the back stroke with a 31.14. Santiago broke the 12U boys freestyle record with a 28.88 and the breaststroke record with a 36 flat. Henard’s record came in the 14U backstroke with a time of 33.33.

This summer would mark the fourth consecutive undefeated season for the Sharks. Parent rep Mary Jo Heye says the difference has been solid coaching a great team comradery.

“It’s not like the town of Sherwood has something in the water that makes our kids better swimmers,” Heye said. “It all comes down to the caliber of coaching and the positive atmosphere we have. The kids love to participate, and more often than not bring new friends and get them into it. The program just keeps building on itself, and it’s all due to the coaching we have, they are the best of the best.”

A total of 145 Sherwood Swimmers were present at the Meet of Champs, a league high. Sharks’ team coach Keith McAfee has over 26 years of experience as a swim coach, a stat that shows in the results for the past four years.

The Cabot Piranhas may not have the amount of swimmers as their counterparts to the south, but do have their fare share of all-star caliber swimmers. The backbone of the girls squad for the past several years has been 18-year-old Vicki Lovellette. Lovellette was taking part in her final Meet of Champs on Saturday, but as her career as a competitor winds down, her place in the Piranhas program is far from over.

Lovellette will begin college at Arkansas State in Jonesboro in the fall, but plans to return home next summer and help coach the team that led her to the success she has enjoyed.

“It’s been fun,” Lovellette said. “Saturday was my last meet, and everyone made a big deal about it. The kids look up to me because of me being a swimmer and coach, so I definitely want to come back and continue coaching.”

Piranhas coach Debbie Skidmore says the program is still on the rise. The addition of an indoor pool this year gave the team better practice opportunities, and a full girls roster helped their efforts in the meet of champs. She says while they are still a few boys short of being where they need to be, she is satisfied with the abundant progress that has been made.

“We’ve had a lot of these kids for five years now,” Skidmore said. “They have bonded. They love to come and work out with each other. It’s kind of become like a family, they go on trips to Wild River Country and parties together.”

The boys captain for Piranhas is John’s older brother Jarod Santiago. The Leader convinced Jarod to be serious just long enough to put his team’s season into perspective.

“Things went pretty well for us this season,” Santiago said. “Everyone put in their hours. We’re a little thin in some areas, but we’ll get some more kids.” As per usual, Jarod was not shy about stating his opinions, particularly when it came to his least favorite of events.

“Everything went swell except for the butterfly,” Santiago said. “I just don’t believe in the butterfly; I think it should be banned forever.”