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River Hill pool contributes to World's Largest Swim Lesson

By Ulysses Muñoz, umunoz@tribune.com

6:00 AM EDT, June 26, 2014

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For the fifth year in a row, many of the top pools and water safety organizations all over the world have worked together to create The World's Largest Swimming Lesson, a promotional event to help prevent drowning.

Last year's record-breaking attempt was 32,450 people worldwide; this year, more than 40,000 people were expected to take part, according to WLSL's website.

Kristen Groves, the Columbia Association's aquatics programs coordinator, took the lead in organizing Columbia's contribution to the event, which was held at River Hill pool.

"Instructors are included in the tally as well, so we probably had about 30 or 35 people today," Groves said Friday. "The forms are due at 5 p.m., but," she said, "we may not know if we broke the record for a couple of weeks."

Even though one of the main goals of WLSL is to teach children how to swim, kids aren't the only students that showed up at the event eager to begin their training.

"We had two adults join us today as well," said Groves. She added that lessons are available for people of all ages.

Howard County schools were still in session Friday, which made the event's turnout lower than normal, said instructor Sam Vanasse, who has been giving lessons for two years.

"Basically it's just the first lesson of the year. The season is just starting next week," he said. "All of the new swim lesson instructors are just learning how to start out, and then it's good practice for all the returning ones."

Every swimming instructor goes through multiple four-hour training sessions to get certified, said swimming instructor Brad Kunzman. This was his first year participating in WLSL.

Colleen Higgins lives in Ellicott City, but joined the CA to access the pools and gyms in the area. She brought her sons Liam, 5, and Kellan, 1, to take part in the worldwide lesson.

"We did it last year too," said Higgins. "I have no idea [about the record], but it sounds like this is the day to do it."

"He has no fear; he's a little scared, he's a little timid," she said, pointing first at her younger son before gesturing at Liam.

"Seeing other kids doing it I think is important," added Higgins. "[Liam] took lessons a lot last summer, but he still doesn't independently swim, so that's the goal this summer, is to really get him to independently swim."