ELKTON — The Cecil County YMCA hosted the county’s first-ever varsity swim meet Friday afternoon.
Swimmers from Elkton, Bohemia Manor and Perryville competed. Elkton, which became the first varsity program in the county four years ago, brought the biggest team and took home the most points.
“It’s our fourth year. It’s the first year for both of them. My first year, I started with three [swimmers]. It’s grown to 20,” Golden Elks coach Pat Cline said. “The big thing has been the kids. They’ve done an outstanding job just getting their friends here and things like that. I haven’t had to do a whole lot. Going into it, I was prepared to do that, but they’ve done most of it themselves. I kind of wanted to let them to do it because that way it grows organically.”
He was ecstatic to see the sport spread to two more Cecil County schools this season, allowing an event like this to be held so close to home.
“I think it’s great. Hopefully, it grows the program. That’s been the big thing over the last couple of years, just growing the program and making it more accessible to more and more schools and more and more kids,” Cline said. “The more we do things like this, the most exposure we get. It’s going to help. Sometimes, competing against the Harford County schools, the hard part is just the numbers. If you don’t have the numbers, you’re not going to win many meets.”
Perryville junior Bryan Thompson took the initiative this season to start a swim team at his school, doubling the number of programs inside Cecil County. It took until January for a third team to join the party.
“A challenge for us was securing the number of people wanting to swim. It’s not really known at Bo. I know it took Elkton three years to develop what they have,” Bo Manor coach Lynne Meis said. “Once we got enough, they realized that these kids are kind of serious. We were like ‘We need to be done by this time.’”
Cline explained that Friday’s meet was quickly organized to help the Eagles reach the minimum number of competitions needed to qualify for regionals and states.
“It was a well-run meet. I thought that the county did a great job getting and securing officials,” Bo Manor assistant coach Allison Sakers said.
Elkton sophomore Elizabeth Pennington won both individual races she competed in, as well as a pair of relays.
“I thought it was really cool to have everybody here. It was the first time we were able to do that. I thought it was really cool because a couple of years ago, it was only like three people on the team. Now, it’s like this massive thing,” she said. “Since last year, it got a lot more publicity because we started winning races and winning meets. It’s spread just by word of mouth and the news. It’s a really good sport for everybody.”
Thompson was the lone swimmer for the Panthers on Friday. The Eagles fielded a girls’ team with seven swimmers, but do not yet have any boys in the program yet. Only three members have competitive swimming experience for Bo Manor, but Meis said the rest of the team is picking it up quickly.
“They’re all posting really decent times, especially for the people that are new. They have no experience competitive swimming and they’re still beating some times,” she said.
Follow Sean Grogan on Twitter: @Sean_CecilWhig