Baltimore County public high schools do not sponsor varsity swimming teams. But that didn't stop 62 swimmers from 16 area schools from participating in yesterday's unofficial county championships at Towson State.
The meet was sponsored by the Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks and co-sponsored by the Catonsville Recreation and Parks Council, Cy's Swimwear and Maryland Swim For Life.
Clinton Jennifer, a community recreation supervisor in Catonsville, said organizing the event was not easy, but she couldn't be happier with the results.
"I'm elated," said Jennifer, who swam for Bowie State during the only two years the school had a program and coached swimming for four years at Forest Park. "I think it was a huge success. It was long overdue, and hopefully we can use this as a springboard for more meets like this."
Jennifer said most of the swimmers at yesterday's meet are members of area clubs, but many of the athletes had little experience in competitive swimming.
"Some of the swimmers were self-taught," Jennifer said. "It was good for them to be able to come and participate. They may get inspired by seeing some of the more experienced kids."
One of the most experienced swimmers at the meet was Dulaney's Amanda White, last year's Baltimore Sun High School Athlete of the Year and a member of the North Baltimore Aquatic Club. White finished first in the 200-meter individual medley, the 100-meter breaststroke and the 100-meter backstroke, as well as anchoring Dulaney's first-place team in the 200-meter medley relay.
"My club swimming is not [affiliated with Dulaney], so I miss out on being with my school," White said. "A lot of these kids swim in the summer with a community club, and they just felt like coming out today to do something with their schools."
Towson High's Mark Bauer and Kim Albert, members of the Towson YMCA, recruited a team of seven swimmers with announcements over the school's public address system.
"It turned out that there were not a lot of people at Towson who swim," Bauer said. "Maybe this will help get swimming recognized in [county] schools."
Dulaney claimed the first unofficial county championship with a team score of 282 points, but many of those involved agreed that the event meant more than declaring a champion.
"Maryland is the only state that doesn't have a state swimming championship," said Amanda White's father, Stan, who announced entries and scores in each race. "One of the reasons is that Baltimore County doesn't have swimming. I think this is a good effort by recreation and parks to get this thing started."
The major obstacle that's kept swimming out of county schools is a lack of facilities, but White thinks that problem easily can be solved.
"A lot of schools around the country use other facilities for their teams," White said. "It's possible to organize teams that use facilities in the area in conjunction with parks and recreation councils and the colleges and universities."