Sevier Aquatic Club seeing growth
Swimming isn’t just about flying fast through the water.
It’s about doing it twice.
That’s the lesson Sevier Aquatic Club coach Ryan Buechner is hoping his five swimmers take from this weekend’s Southeastern Short Course championships.
“You have to have the endurance to be able to do it twice,” he said. “If you know what place you should be in (the prelims), being able to save up some for the one at night (is important) because that’s the one that counts.”
This weekend’s meet in Nashville features a prelim-final format that forces swimmers to produce two good races to place. That’sgood training for Brady Cusick, Sterling Burnett, Dylan Bortolon and Charles and Lila Blalock, Buechner said. Learning to conserve some energy for championship races — and competing against the top two to three percent of swimmers in Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida — will only help those five swimmers as they get older and move into high school.
“That’s a really tough thing to learn,” Buechner said. “… If you’re qualifying for this meet at this age, by the time you get to high school it makes it that much easier.”
That growth is the goal for SAC, which has seen numbers rise in Buechner’s five years with the club. Next year, the high school team should reach into the 20s for the first time after having just four swimmers when Buechner arrived. Summer participation has also grown from about 50 kids to 125 swimmers now.
SAC’s high school program was young this year — most of the eight county athletes who went to the state meet in Nashville were sophomores or younger — after losing three seniors a year ago. That included Natalie Burnett, who had a top-8 finish at state and is now swimming at Carson-Newman. The college freshman said back in the fall she’s seen the growth Buechner is talking about at the Sevierville Community Center.
“I guess he’s brought like a new, fresh sense to the sport,” she said. “I think he reaches out more to the younger generation. That way we can build the program from the bottom up.”
That’s the idea. The youth in the high school program is complemented by a strong middle school group at SAC, which includes several eighth graders that swam times this winter that would’ve qualified them for the state meet. That program placed third earlier this year at the city meet in Knoxville. SAC's 8-and-unders finished second at last weekend's district meet, with Kuba Shaw andBraxton Cusick grabbing multiple top-8 finishes.
Buechner said getting kids in the pool at the middle school level or younger is key, because it gives them time to develop in a sport that requires year-round participation. To keep those swimmers in the water, the coach has developed flexible schedules that allow athletes to take on other sports when they reach high school and still work on swimming.
That’s exactly the attitude Burnett said the sport needs in Sevier County.
“You have to get in the pool at a younger age,” Burnett said. “You build on it each year. It’s so hard to get in and go for it.
“For swimming to become more popular I feel we’re going to have to appeal to the younger generation and get them in there, get them attached to the love of the sport.”