DALLAS — The Blue Dolphins Swim Team is finding their stroke as a team this year.
“I think we’ve improved immensely,” said head swimming coach Mark Maxwell. “There are different levels in swimming, and we have a higher number of kids at higher levels then we’ve ever had before.”
The Blue Dolphins is a year-round competitive age-group swim team that has been around for 55 years, and is located out of the Dallas Aquatic Center. It is open for kids 5 years old through 18 and older.
There is also a high school program for Dallas high students who want to swim and compete alongside other high schoolers across the state.
The swim team’s 2017-18 season has seen more success than it has in years past, Maxwell said, including hosting a multi-team sanctioned meet, which is a state-qualifying meet, for the first time in a decade; six kids with state qualifying times, and two age group swimmers qualifying for sectionals and the Paralympic junior nationals.
One of those swimmers is Sydney Alemein, a 13-year-old who has been on the Blue Dolphins team for four years, and in March qualified for and swam in the age group Sectionals in Federal Way, Wash.
She said she loves swimming because of everything it offers her.
“It’s really fun, and looking at doing new goals, that’s always really fun. Trying to go to the next level and achieving more, you just get something to look forward to every day.”
The events she participates in are the 200 butterfly stroke, and the 500 freestyle stroke.
“I’ve been swimming since I was really young, like 3,” she said. “I’ve always liked swimming. We had a neighborhood pool and my mom put a swim cap on me and said, ‘go.’ And I did not like wearing the swim cap; I thought I looked really weird in it. And then we moved here and my dad said, ‘there’s a swim team, maybe you could try out,’ and I was like ‘oh yeah, I’ll try out,’ but I didn’t know it would come to something so big.”
Alemein also took two first- place finishes in the 13-14 age group 1,650 yards freestyle and the age group 200 fly at the Seahorse Invitational from Aug. 10 through Aug. 12 in Newport, Oregon.
Maxwell said another area of success is watching more kids swim at A times.
“A times are qualifying times for state, and we probably had more of those this year than ever before.”
“We are at or above the national average of improvement,” he added.
Because the team doesn’t have a lot of funding, they rely on fundraisers to pay for things like going to or hosting events. Aug. 18, they were supposed to have a Krispy Kreme fundraiser but ended up pre-selling 116 dozen of the 160 dozen donuts they had ordered.
It goes to show how invested the kids and parents are to this team.
“The kids on this team are all so accepting, encouraging and family like,” said Jessica Keene, a parent who has two kids on the team.
“It is definitely a strong team of different backgrounds that overlook each other’s differences and care for each individual alike.”
She has watched her own son blossom as a person through this program.
“I’ve seen firsthand how it has helped my kiddo in school with his speech delay and academic achievements,” she said. “In a year my son went from no one understanding him to doing amazingly well in his academics and graduating from his speech with 100 percent efficiency. I credit this to his swimming.”
Keen credits this year’s success to a number of different factors.
“I believe we have a little more parent support this year. I know we have amazing coaches who look at more than just the swimmer in each child; they really care about each child individually. Being able to host our own meets has helped to give the kids a sense of ownership in the sport as well.”
The Blue Dolphins meet five times a week in the afternoon. Maxwell gives up much of his time year round for practice and going to meets, doing it all for free.
“When I came here six years ago, I said ‘I won’t do this as a recreational program. We’re gonna do this the right way and build a program,’” Maxwell said.
Since then, “most of the kids have bought into the program and bought into the work level, by coming to practice,” he said. “More kids are going to the meets. They’re looking at goals and saying, ‘this is what I want.’”
The 19-member team just finished up their summer season, where they take a break for a few weeks before starting back up in mid-September.
If you have a child interested in joining the Blue Dolphins swim team, they offer a no commitment week long try out for kids and their parents to see if it’s a good fit for them.
For more information about the team, contact Mark Maxwell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-538-6862.