Free State Swim League

Wiltondale coaches, from left, Alison Mingo, Debin Kirby, and Courtney Palo, cheer for one of their swimmers as they are announced before the start of a race during the Free State Swim League Championship at Towson University. (Staff photo by Brian Krista / July 20, 2013)

On the sign-up date in March for the new Wiltondale Warriors swim team, pool officials were looking for 75 competitors to join the fledgling squad in the well established Free State Swim League.

As it turns out, the original estimate didn't take into account what must have been huge pent-up demand, considering that the Warriors' roster has swelled to 133 swimmers this summer for the inaugural season of dual meets against five other Towson-area teams, three from Parkville and one from Phoenix.

Although there are a variety of reasons why Wiltondale hasn't had a team until this summer, the most overriding factor is the size of the Wiltondale property.

"Everybody said it was too small," said pool committee member Sara Barber, whose Knollwood home is on the other side of the stream that marks the eastern boundary of the pool's property. "But our pool is as big as everybody else's, the surroundings are just smaller."

By scheduling all away meets this summer, Wiltondale officials were able to see how other pools handle the crowds that accompany Free State teams.

Still, Wiltondale coach Devin Kirby said the prospect of having a home meet next summer is important.

"There's nothing as exciting as having a meet in your home pool," the former Towson University swimmer said.

Actually, the entire season has been thrilling for Kirby and assistants Alison Mingo and Courtney Palo, who guided the Warriors to their only win over Eagle's Nest.

Kirby pointed out that the examples set by some of his older swimmers, including 14-year-old twin brothers Andrew and Daniel Feeley, and sisters Blair, 15, and Bethany, 13, Ptak, have been a big reason why the team has been so fun to coach.

Kirby also praised Allison Malecki, 10, for her versatility in the pool.

"The older kids have just done a great job with the younger kids," he said. "I'm a big believer in team unity."

Barber tipped her cap to her neighbor, Wiltondale swim team director Elise Cloyd, for getting the project started by contacting Stoneleigh co-coach Brian Loeffler.

"She approached Brian about joining the league and he said there was an opening," Barber said. "He was very helpful every step of the way, and he even came to our meetings. We went very quickly from will we have enough kids to having 133 kids. Even kids who are not lifelong swimmers joined and enjoyed it. Then they told their friends."

Loeffler was quick to describe other benefits to Wiltondale officials.

"Brian told us it's the only time that 5-year-olds are on the same team with 18-year-olds," Barber said. "He was right. All of these kids from different schools come together and get to know each other better — and so do the parents."