Swimmers from across the area converged on Emory University’s Woodruff PE Center June 30 - July 1 for the DeKalb County Swim League Championship Meet. Spanning two days, the event was a chance for members of the area’s 22 swimming clubs to compete across a spectrum of heats.
“It’s a competitive meet,” said Jabari King, a veteran swimming coach with Healthy Lifestyles, Healthy Kids, Atlanta Sharks, one of clubs represented at the event. “It really helps make swimming a success.”
Boys and girls competitors ranged from 4 to18 years old and were required to qualify throughout the weekend before Sunday’s finals. The competitive nature of the event, though, didn’t mean a sense of fun was lost for its participants.
“I like going fast, and my favorite stroke is breast stroke,” said 6-year-old Zahir Harrison, part of a victorious trio who captured the 6 and under 100-yard freestyle relay title. “I like the part when I feel the cold water.”
Harrison’s coach, King, feels that the championship meet is a great way to promote an often overlooked sport within the area.
“I use the summer league to get interested in swimming,” he said. “They can get introduced to it, have a lot of fun—and with these sprint races, they have a chance to have success in the sport.”
For Jordan Williams, a 15-year-old sprint swimmer with the Avondale Swim Team, competing within the summer league is a great way to stay focused throughout the year. “I’ve been swimming for three years; I like the racing,” he said. “I swim for my high school, and one of my friends told me [about it]. I’ve been involved for a couple of months.”
With many coaches working as volunteers, keeping the sport going often requires community effort, said Sabir Muhammad, who coaches the Atlanta Sharks. “This is going to be my fourth year coaching,” said the former American record holder and NCAA Division II champion who attended Stanford University on a scholarship. “We practice four times a week for about an hour and have meets.”
Muhammad said the clubs within summer leagues are a great way for kids in less affluent neighborhoods to have access to swimming facilities and coaching.
“Over the course of the past couple of days, the city of Atlanta has opened up all public pools for a free swim [because of the heat wave],” he said. “Otherwise kids would have to come up with a dollar. And not a lot of kids have that extra dollar to go to the pool, so access is an issue.”