Prevailing in the pool: Middle school swim team wins Pacific Basin League Championship

Middle+school+swimmers+huddle+together+in+the+pool+before+an+event.+The+Middle+school+swim+team+participated+in+and+won+the+2021+Pacific+Basin+League+Championship%2C+which+was+held+on+Nov.+7+at+The+Culver+City+Municipal+Plunge+pool.+The+meet+started+at+4+p.m.+and+ended+at+6%3A39+p.m.

Photo credit: Kim Smith

Middle school swimmers huddle together in the pool before an event. The Middle school swim team participated in and won the 2021 Pacific Basin League Championship, which was held on Nov. 7 at The Culver City Municipal Plunge pool. The meet started at 4 p.m. and ended at 6:39 p.m.

By Cadence Callahan, Senior Reporter

The smell of chlorine wafts over the pool deck as swimmers emerge from the water. The sound of cheers and laughter can be heard as swimmers congratulate teammates with high-fives and praise. On Sunday, Nov. 7 Archer’s middle school swim team won the 2021 Pacific Basin League (PBL) Championship. This was the final meet of the season, which first started in August. 

The meet was held at The Culver City Municipal Plunge pool and started promptly at 4 p.m., ending at 6:40 p.m. Archer competed against Brentwood School, Geffen School, Crossroads School, Wildwood School and New Roads School.

Some of the specific events swimmers participated in included the 200-yard medley relay, 100-yard medley relay, the 200-yard freestyle relay and 25-yard backstroke. Middle school swim coach Stephanie Ferri shared some of the highlights and accomplishments of the swimmers, despite the cold weather. 

“We won first place in the 200-yard medley relay and the 200-yard freestyle relay  — that’s the culminating event of the whole meet. Those were two very impressive relays to watch,” Ferri said. “It was very cold when the meet started, and sometimes when you’re in a bathing suit and it’s cold, it’s hard for your body to perform at its peak, but we had a lot of swimmers go personal best. Overall, it was a very good meet.” 

Throughout the meet, coaches Ferri and Wilma Wong worked together to motivate the swimmers and provided various tips to stay warm. Ferri highlighted the resilience of sixth grade swimmer Sophie Herbert during the meet. 

“Sophie Herbert swam the 200-yard freestyle relay, and like I mentioned it was really cold. She said she just felt kind of sluggish, so Coach Wong and I gave her some tips on staying warm and keeping her body and muscles loose,” Ferri said. “She came back and won the 50-yard freestyle, so that was a cool moment where she made this shift in her swimming under extreme circumstances.”

Seventh grade swimmer Pasha Selig said, throughout the meet, Ferri and Wong were supportive and constructive when giving feedback. 

“They talked to us individually, and they would tell us what we were doing well in and where we could improve,” Selig said. “Normally, when you’re on a swim team, coaches don’t really give you one-on-one time, but the coaches were really great.” 

The swim team is like a community, you’re with a group of people, and you all have the same interest, and you’re going from place to place, gaging in fun activities and competitions.”

— Nex Grubbs' 26

In preparation for the PBL meet, eighth grade swimmer Nex Grubbs worked out with their father in addition to the regular swim practices, which were held on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at the Santa Monica College pool.

“To swim as fast as you can, you need to have really strong upper body strength,” Grubbs said. “So, my coaches recommended some basic weight lifting, and aside from the afternoon practices I attend, I worked out with my father, who’s also a weightlifter, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.”

Ferri commented on the initiative Herbert took during one of the previous swim meets — a moment that particularly stood out to her. 

“At one of the meets, she took this paper that had everyone’s heats and lanes and was noting everyone who got first place,” Ferri said. “She took it upon herself to do that. It was really cool because she was then able to celebrate who won and celebrate Archer. So that was a cool leadership thing that she did.”

Although the team faced challenges and limitations that interfered with their practices — such as transportation issues — and UCLA, where the swimmers normally practiced, was closed due to pool chemical shortage, Ferri said the season and performance of the swimmers exceeded her expectations.

“I was a little skeptical because we were just put under so much strain with morning practices, a fast season, 31 swimmers on the team, and we only had three competitions and then the finals,” Ferri said. “Under the constrictions and constraints of COVID, I think this was one of the best seasons Archer has had because we really perservered through a lot of barriers.”