Commerce High School begins its inaugural swim season this Friday at Gainesville’s Frances Meadows Aquatic Center. North Hall is hosting the event, which starts at 6:15 p.m.
Formed within the past month, the Commerce swim team this season includes three junior swimmers who are expected to compete in a combined six events, their new coach Sara Massey said.
Dawson Knick and Clay Pritchett will swim on the boys’ side, with Knick swimming the 100 freestyle and 100 breaststroke and Pritchett competing in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke events. Hayden McRee will swim in the 50 free and the 100 backstroke, Massey added. High school swimmers are allowed to compete in two individual events.
The trio currently takes part in swimming clubs and leagues through most of the year, Massey said, in Gainesville and Oconee County. That experience will help them dive right into the competition, she added.
“Any time you want to add another sport to the varsity level and competition I think is a great thing. Anything to get kids involved. We are really excited about the upcoming season,” she said. “December is when the meets sort of kick off. We’re in good shape as far as competing, though on conditioning, we’re a little bit behind schedule.”
A math teacher at the school, Massey was asked to lead the small squad recently as a staffer with experience coaching the sport. She served as assistant coach at Oconee County High School for two seasons (2004-2005 and 2005-2006) and participated in the sport through youth programs. She also competed on Oconee High School’s diving team. Massey has taught the past five years at Commerce.
Principal and athletic director Donnie Drew approached Massey about leading the team last month after a group of parents proposed such a team be added to Commerce’s athletics roster. The plan this season is to start small and slow with an abbreviated competition schedule this year, Drew told the board.
Next year, he hopes to have more specifics about the cost of such a program since the number of swimmers is expected to increase beyond the initial three. This season, parents have agreed to pick up a large portion of the associated costs, Drew said. Massey’s coaching stipend and student-athlete transportation to competitions are among the costs approved by the board with its authorization of the program last month.
The coach hopes the team can generate enough participation in the future to have relay teams for both boys and girls. At least four male and female swimmers are required.
In addition to Friday’s meet in Gainesville, Massey said the team expects to add meet dates in January, including another competition in Gainesville and, perhaps, one in Athens. The state swim meet is in February and takes place at Georgia Tech.
As for uniforms, they all have “black bathing suit and black swim trunks,” Massey said, which will work for now.