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Swimming together

Lakeridge High team bonds over community service event

SUBMITTED PHOTO: DAVID ROLLINS - Lakeridge swimmer Dutton Elske helps with teaching during a free clinic his swim team gave on Sunday.The district pool had been closed for a month, and Lakeridge High School head swim coach Derek Abbott says his team members “felt like lost puppies” who didn’t seem to have the connection they once did.

Then, varsity swimmer Katie Manzione put into motion a community service project that Abbott had always wanted his team to do.

SUBMITTED PHOTO: MAISIE SHINDO - Katie Manzione, a Lakeridge swimmer, organized the free clinic for young swimmers this past weekend.“She was probably the true inspiration, because without her it would be an idea that would have never come off the ground,” Abbott says. “She just has a heart and a vision that’s not egocentric. She really cares about others, so with her spearheading it and this festering idea we’ve always had, it was the perfect combination, and it happened to work.”

The team gathered on Sunday afternoon at Portland Community College to hold free instructional sessions for children, ages 3-14. The event drew 26 children from the community.

“I couldn’t have done it without the help of my coaches and teammates and our whole community,” Manzione says.

She got the idea from an article she spotted in Swim Swam magazine about two Olympic swimmers who taught swim lessons to children in a South American country to prevent drowning. Manzione says she thought, “Why not bring something like that here” and promote safety while also advocating for competitive swimming?

SUBMITTED PHOTO: DAVID ROLLINS - Local private coach Carolyn Heymann works with Braylon Abbott, while Liam O'Shea and Mick Van den Bos look on.“I just think that swimming is such an incredible sport,” says Manzione, a sophomore. “It’s also a lifelong sport. Even when you’re 60 years old, you can still go and swim laps, because it’s not as hard on your joints. It’s a great sport for all ages.”

Local private coach Carolyn Heymann taught an older group competition-level techniques such as turns and starts, while former University of Texas swimmer Mike Self demonstrated competitive swimming strokes and Lakeridge coaches John McComish and Brigitte Stacey Dennett assisted the younger children. Dennett taught them basic water safety, and McComish focused on simpler strokes. High school volunteers walked participants through the coaches’ lessons one on one or in small groups.

Of the 57 girls and boys on the Pacers’ swim team roster, about 20 helped, a great turnout for a Sunday and a first-time event, Abbott notes. Abbott’s three sons, ages 3, 5 and 8, all participated in the event, which could have an encore next year.

“Our hope is that ... we do it every year as a team,” Abbott says.

Manzione says she “definitely” wants to, although she plans to expand and add a coach for special needs children.SUBMITTED PHOTO: MAISIE SHINDO - Lakeridge coach Brigitte Stacey Dennett offers instructions to some young swimmers.

The team drew more closely together more during the event, recapturing its closeness. And to add to that good feeling, the pool reopened on Wednesday, Manzione says.

“This was an incredible experience and an incredible way for all of us to work together to give back to the community,” Manzione says. “The Lakeridge community is so supportive of our high school team, so to be able to give back to the Lakeridge community and all of the communities around us I thought was a great thing, and to be able to incorporate so many things that we are passionate about. The attendees seemed to really enjoy it, as well as all of the volunteers.”

By Jillian Daley
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