For many years, the Carroll County YMCA Piranhas youth swim team wasa small group of wanderers with no home pool and almost no victoriesto call its own.
But another era begins this fall when the squad moves into its new YMCA building, which is quickly nearing completion.
As the old era recedes, indications are the new one will be bright.
The team's membership has risen to 104 from last year's 78.
Meanwhile, swimmers' times are coming down, at least partially because of the increased amount of practice available at the Western Maryland College pool, where the team is based.
The fruits of that effort are showing in the YMCA league's top rankings, where Carroll countians' names frequently appear.
And the team is starting to win somemeets.
The Piranhas topped Cumberland YMCA, 365-319, at FrostburgState College Saturday, for its second consecutive victory. The teamtopped Talbot County two Saturdays ago.
Assistant coach Steve Hildenbrand noted the YMCA never had won two straight meets, or even twoin a season.
Even the Piranhas' five losses in this 2-5 campaign have been respectable, a far cry from five years ago when the undermanned Carroll squad was continually drubbed, forfeiting hundreds of points each meet because of a lack of swimmers.
Now, the team is deep in most age groups, and lost no points to forfeit against Cumberland.
"I'm delighted at the performance of the kids," said first-yearPiranha head coach Cathie Finke. "I'm very pleased at the way the season's gone.
"They're great kids. They are interested in improvingtheir personal times. There's a lot of self-motivation."
Saturday, some turned in big performances:
* Brian Lawson (15-18 boys), Jason Kay (8-under boys) and Megan Straehle (9-10 girls) each won four individual events.
* Roger Racz (15-18 boys) took three, and Kara Lawson (11-12 girls) won one race and was part of relay teams which won two others.
* Kim Krebs and Leslie Edwards, both in 8-under girls, each won twice.
Team officials are particularly pleased at theperformance of the 8-under group, which won 108 of a possible 118 points
They see the growing turnout of these and others in the youngest-age categories as a good omen.
"The exciting thing to me is the number of young ones," Finke said. "They will grow into the core of the team and get better each year."
Hildenbrand said reasons for the Piranhas' improvement are not only the growth in that youngest age group, but also in the 15-18 category, wherethe team historically has lacked swimmers.
Finke said improvementis also coming from an emphasis on bettering individual times in events.
"That's the thing I stress, not winning swim meets," she said.
Finke also had kind words for the parents.
"They have been very supportive," she said. "They do a lot of things (officiating, timing and handling paper work) behind the scenes that make our team work."
All said they are excited about this October, when the team opens practice for the new season in its new home.
"We're really looking forward to having our own pool to practice in and hold our meets at," said Hildenbrand.