New Meadowbrook Tomatoes swim club coach Kelly Offutt talks about the season ahead. (Tom Worgo, Baltimore Sun Media Group)
Kelly Offutt inherits a stacked swimming club as the new head coach of the Meadowbrook Tomatoes. The former swimming standout from the University of Virginia feels she has the perfect blend of experienced and rookie swimmers to make the Tomatoes a real threat in their two biggest meets of the summer: The Central Maryland Swim League Division I championships and the Straehle Invitational.
"We have a lot of returnees that have had success in the past and so many newcomers that are going to follow in their footsteps," said Offutt, who held her first practice Tuesday afternoon in Mount Washington. "Everyone is going to work together and inspire each other."
Meadowbrook will be led by its bevy of swimmers from the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, the same club that produced Olympic champion Michael Phelps.
"We will have a solid number of NBAC swimmers," Offutt explained. "They make up about a quarter of our team. I love having NBAC swimmers. They are also such positive role models. They are really good at swimming, but at the same time they do a really good job of meshing in with all the other kids and being a part of the team. They're some really, really fast swimmers so they have a way of inspiring all of us."
Offutt knows plenty about NBAC swimmers. She was part of the program for six years.
At Virginia, she swam on a scholarship and won Atlantic Coast Conference championships in the 500 and 1,650-yard freestyles in 2013.
She served as a Meadowbrook assistant coach following that season.
"When the opportunity opened to coach, she immediately jumped in and asked about it," said Meadowbrook general manager John Cadigan, a former Tomatoes head coach. "We are very happy to have her come back. She is very engaging with the swimmers. She has the enthusiasm and desire to do a really good job. She is detail-oriented. She is a student of the sport and wants to share that knowledge."
Offutt is eager to tutor the Tomatoes, whose roster will likely feature more than 200 swimmers in six different age groups by the start of the first meet June 20.
"I want to teach skills that are going to last forever," said Offutt, who is assisted by Cora Summerfield, who swims for NBAC and Lehigh University. "Most of the NBAC will say, 'Summer league is how we got our start.' I want to encourage all the kids to really enjoy what we are doing."
June 20 - Watermont (Away) 9 a.m June 27 - South Carroll (Away) 9 a.m. July 1 - Forest Hill (Away) 5:30 p.m. July 11 - North St. John (Away) 9 a.m. July 18 - Padonia (Home) 9 a.m. July 22 – Straehle Invitational 9 a.m. July 25 - Divisionals @ Padonia 9 a.m.