Middle school swim dives into season, with morning practices for first time

Archer+middle+school+swimmers+assume+their+starting+positions+and+are+ready+to+start+their+first+race.+On+Sept.+30%2C+they+competed+in+their+first+meet+at+Crossroads+against+Brentwood%2C+Crossroads+and+Wildwood.

Photo credit: Stephanie Ferri

Archer middle school swimmers assume their starting positions and are ready to start their first race. On Sept. 30, they competed in their first meet at Crossroads against Brentwood, Crossroads and Wildwood.

By Audrey Chang, Staff Reporter

As the fall sports season begins to come to a close, middle school swim dives into practice and competition. The team is composed of 31 students from sixth, seventh and eighth grade, with a majority of students in the eighth grade. As a fall sport, the season began in August and ends in November. 

Some of the things swimmers appreciate most about the team are the sense of connection it provides, the opportunities for competition and having a fun form of exercise, sixth grader Camila Carmona said.

“[My favorite thing about the team is] the way I get to communicate with others and I get to compete with other schools,”  Carmona said. “It’s really exhilarating to just swim.” 

The middle school swim team competed in their first meet of the season on Sept. 30 at Crossroads, swimming against Brentwood, Crossroads and Wildwood. This meet was the first of three for this season. Meets are unscored and instead focus on competing and improving strokes. The meets all lead up to the Pacific Basin League Championship in November. 

“The season has been going really well,” Head Coach and Fitness and Wellness Department Chair Stephanie Ferri said. “It’s an opportunity for new swimmers to swim competitively, it’s also an opportunity for club swimmers, who have been in training and competing for a long time, to represent their school and get recognized, which is really special.”

Although the team does not have official captains for the season, Claire Doyle and Avery Greene were selected as captains for the team’s first meet. Doyle has been on the team since sixth grade, and said she is excited about the season and getting to know people across grade levels on their large team. 

“[The season] has been really great. I really like getting to know new people, especially the sixth graders and bonding with my team,” Doyle said. “I’m really excited to go with our team [to the meet] for the first time.” 

The team never has tryouts because the coaches want middle schoolers to feel welcome to try a new activity without pressure, so all who wanted to join the team could. The swimmers practice at Santa Monica College  4:30 p.m. – 6 p.m. on Mondays and 6-7 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The morning practices are new this year, as they became the only option due to pool availability and transportation factors. 

“It’s a little quieter in the morning, there’s not as much of a rush to get on the bus after school,” Ferri said. “I feel like swimmers are able to focus a little bit better, other than just being a little tired at first, there’s less on their mind because they’ve just woken up as opposed to going through the whole school day there’s just more on your mind: homework, things to do.” 

Even though it wasn’t initially the first choice to have morning practice for the middle schoolers, the timing benefits student athletes by providing a calmer, more focused mindset for their practices Ferri said. 

“All in all I feel like it’s been a really positive experience and I think it’s really great for the swimmers that get that physical activity in the morning,” Ferri said. “I feel like they come to school and they’re primed for learning and for sitting and paying attention in class.”

70% of the swimmers attend both morning and afternoon practices, Ferri said, including Doyle, who agrees with the benefits of the morning practices for her learning, focus and productivity. 

“Of course, it’s very early, we wake up very early to get there, but there’s this sense of accomplishment after you get it over with and you’re able to come to school,” Doyle said. “I think you’re more focused after working out in the morning.” 

Middle school swimmers have been the six time consecutive winners of the Pacific Basin League Championship, Ferri said, but they haven’t had the chance to compete in two years due to cancellations from fires and COVID-19. 

“Everything we do and practice, all the competitions beforehand, are just training for that big event,” Ferri said. “We show up and we have good sportsmanship, we’re racing at our best ability and we have a lot of team spirit.”