WINFIELD — Luke Isayiw re-arranged his work schedule Thursday so he wouldn’t miss his final county swim meet.
Meanwhile, Kelly Fields led their team’s cheers, plenty loud for most of the people around the pool deck at South Carroll Swim Club.
Isayiw and Fields were just doing their part, they said, as veterans of the South Carroll Swim Team, which hosted the annual Carroll Invitational once again this year. The meet was postponed Wednesday because of bad weather and reset for Thursday, but it didn’t seem to prevent too many people from returning.
SC co-coach Ashley Towle expected nothing less from her Serpents, who like many of their Carroll counterparts make the county meet the must-swim event of the summer.
“We have a lot competitive meets in our season. The kids just love this one in particular because it’s so fun,” Towle said. “They get to really show their sportsmanship and swim against a lot of their friends. It’s just really nice to see everyone come together.”
Towle praised South Carroll swimmers such as Isayiw, Fields, and Lizzie Rea for their veteran presence on the team. Isayiw, a Westminster resident and recent Mount St. Joseph High School graduate, said he was dealing with that bittersweet feeling of competing in his final county meet.
He won the 100-meter individual medley (15-18 boys) to start his day, the first of five events Isayiw entered. Isayiw said he started as a summer swimmer for South Carroll at age 8, and later turned to year-round competition. That led Isayiw to enjoy more success and seek a college career at Tufts University, and he’s headed there soon to start his freshman year.
But Isayiw, 18, said he’ll miss the camaraderie that comes along with the county swim meet. He’s one of the leaders on the team, and he cherishes the role.
“I knew I wanted to be the big kid that I saw to look up to, and I hope I did [that],” Isayiw said. “I feel like I have for some, which always makes me happy. When they give me a high five after their race, it means more than a win to me. To see a little kids who swims five days a week in the summer, saying ‘Good job’ ... that’s why I swim in the summer.”
The county meet, now in its 33rd year, featured close to 400 swimmers from eight different Carroll teams — Carroll Aquatics, Freedom, North Carroll, Nottingham, Ridge, South Carroll, Westminster, and Westminster Riding Club. South Carroll had the most entries with 109; Ridge had one.
The postponement kept some swimmers from being able to come back, because of other obligations, but those who did displayed their traditional competitive spirit.
Fields and Rea are both incoming seniors, Fields at South Carroll and Rea at Liberty. Fields, like Isayiw, said the county meet is one to mark each year on the calendar. At 17, and with another year of high school remaining, Fields has one more invitational to enjoy.
“You see that moment of pride when they’re like, ‘Man, the team really turned out great and I helped do this,'" said Fields, who is one of SCST’s junior coaches. “There’s nothing better to do than see a kid grow, and really be able to instill a love in swimming.”
Towle, who coaches South Carroll with Rob Kesler, said she’s impressed with the selflessness she sees from many of the older swimmers on the squad. It’s common in many teams across the county, and it shows at the same place every summer.
“This whole team is so community based, such a big family,” Towles said. “The older kids really help out with the younger kids. It’s really nice to see as they grow up, they want to be here. They want to start coaching and jump right in. They’re always willing to help out.”
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NOTE: A complete wrap-up of the county meet will appear in a future edition of the Times.