By Bethany Lee
“Water death, land death, water death, and maybe some more land death or we could have a competition where we slaughter ourselves in a meet. That’s what it looks like,” ninth grader Grace Hepp said while describing a typical week of Christ Covenant swimming. Three times a week before dawn, fifth to twelfth graders stumble out of their beds, pull their pajamas on over their swimsuits, and drive to Aquaventure for an hour of swim practice.
On the days they don’t have to swim, they stay after school, roll out their yoga mats, and prepare for a grueling dryland workout—also known as Camp Ange—with lower school PE teacher Darrel Ange. Most weeks swimmers also have at least one meet scheduled, sometimes driving for an hour just to swim their hearts out for five minutes.
Swim is arguably the most demanding sport at Christ Covenant, but sometimes it can seem like its own little world. Practices start at six o’clock in the morning, before many students are even awake. While everyone else is just starting to get up and get ready for school, swimmers are finishing their final laps and racing to the showers to wash the smell of chlorine out of their hair. When they have meets, where they compete against public, private, and homeschool teams, they come home after dark, when all other students have gone home to bed.
Swimming is a varsity sport, but many fifth and sixth graders are on the team, holding their own along with the upper schoolers in pool and dryland workouts.
Although many students are oblivious to what goes on in a week of swimming, it has not stopped the team from regularly beating their records and outscoring other teams. “We’re the underestimated victorious sport,” Hepp said, “We’re the overachievers of the underestimated.” Last year the girls’ swim team was the first varsity Spartan team to win a conference championship, and the boys’ team was runner-up. At their first meet this year, both the girls’ and boys’ teams placed second out of six teams, beating schools like Oakwood, Faith Christian, and Rocky Mount.
“We have thirty-nine kids who are willing to get up at six o’clock in the morning and go jump in a cold pool in the middle of January. That’s the only sport that I know of that does that. Plus dryland, and practicing on the weekend. That shows true dedication,” head coach Mike Stroud said. “We’re having best times and state qualifying times. [You can] definitely see the results of the hard work they’re putting in.”
Not only is the team growing stronger, they are also growing closer together. “Swimming is really cool cause it’s an environment of encouragement and everybody just wants the best for everybody and we cheer really loudly; it feels like an extended family,” ninth grader Tucker Winslow said.
“I really enjoy being on swim because all my friends cheer for me while I’m swimming—especially since it’s my first meet, so I felt, like, really motivated,” seventh grader and first year swimmer Trinity Holler said.
Ninth grader Max Gibbs is one of the more experienced members of the team; he started swimming when he was eight years old and has been swimming with Christ Covenant since the team started five years ago. Since then, he said, “I feel like we’ve all grown physically in the pool—like we’ve all gotten better times—but I feel like we’ve also gotten closer as a team.”
Even though Christ Covenant swimming might not be as well known as “basketball or soccer,” Stroud said that acknowledgement is not important. “We’re not playing for people’s recognition, we’re playing for God’s recognition. We have a great group that I’m proud to be associated with.”