Tuesday, June 05, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Piranhas gear up for first CASL meet

Leader sportswriter

Several new young swimmers combined with the more familiar names of the older teenage swimmers make up this year’s Cabot Piranhas team as they prepare for another summer of competition in the Central Arkansas Swim League.

The Piranhas will open the 2012 summer season with a league meet against the Maumelle Marlins on Saturday at the Cabot Veterans Park swimming center.

The total number still sits at around 100 kids for the Piranhas just as it has for the past several years. The Cabot area has seen a year-round USA team and a Panthers swim team at Cabot High School added in the past five years. While the Piranhas team hasn’t closed the gap on teams such as Maumelle, which has close to 170 swimmers, or Sherwood, which has more than twice the number of competitors, the increased opportunities to compete have helped the existing swimmers.

“We start out working a lot of endurance drills,” Skidmore said. “Then, we break down technique and do drills to help them work on their strokes. We also do water polo and other things to get them to enjoy it, relays, different things so it doesn’t get boring.”

Returning female swimmers include butterfly stroke specialist Emily Grigsby, who will also start her college swimming career at Ouachita Baptist University in the fall. She will be joined by Allison Sinning and Alice Lovellette in the 15-18 year-old division, as well as another butterfly expert in Haylee Beckley in the 13-14 year-old division.

Jessie Baldwin and Kyle Johnson also return for their second year in the girls 13-14 age group after achieving gold-level status in nearly every stroke last summer.

On the boys side, Seth Fox and John Santiago will head up a small, yet strong group of swimmers that also includes Brent Brockel and Kyle Beckley.

One surprise this summer is the absence of girls swimmer Megan Owens, who has regularly competed at the gold level in every event, with this summer being her last chance for eligibility in the CASL.

“With kids in the summertime, it’s difficult to get them all out,” Piranhas coach Debbie Skidmore said. “I’m not disappointed, I guess they have other things they want to be doing, and swimming in the summertime is demanding. It’s every weekend.”

The Piranhas have been practicing since early May, with meets going into mid July.

The teams in the CASL remain the same with longtime frontrunners Sherwood, Maumelle, Otter Creek, Lonoke, Lakewood, Conway and Bryant joining the Piranhas in the eight-team league. There will be two other events on opening weekend as Sherwood will host Bryant and Conway while Lakewood will host the Lonoke Sharkrockets and Otter Creek Otters.