Sea Sharks start summer swimming


Though most people think of coffee as the best morning upper, Craig Sea Sharks coaches Hollie Haskins and Cammie Hillewaert have a better suggestion.

Up to 80 children in a swimming pool, and all of them before noon.


Kevin Murray, 8, works on his butterfly stroke during Tuesday's practice. Murray was the high points leader for the Craig Sea Sharks at Steamboat Springs.

"It sounds kind of intimidating, having to deal with so many kids," Haskins said. "But since the kids pretty much decide how much time they're going to put into the program, we usually won't get 80 in a day."

Every weekday at the Moffat County High School pool, the coaching duo holds practice from 7 a.m. to noon, working with five different age groups, and subsequently a multitude of skill levels.

On weekends, Haskins and Hillewaert, who are also sisters, travel as far as Cortez to oversee the meets, as well as the athletes that travel.

Over the years, the Sea Sharks have become the main summer competitive sport for many of the young athletes in Craig. The popularity of the swim team's system is because of many things, but in the forefront is the relaxed attitude it takes with its athletes and their performance.

"The program is definitely not for kids who are just learning to swim. We want them to at least be able to swim the length of the pool without stopping," Haskins said. "But, when the kids are part of the Sea Sharks, they pretty much make up their own schedule. We have to do it that way since so many will go on vacation over the summer."

Along with a flexible practice schedule, the young swimmers are also allowed to decide what they want from the program.

First places and top-team finishes are far from the primary concern of the Sea Sharks. Instead, merit is put on the development of techniques and personal best times in races.

"In many cases, a swimmer will come into the Sea Sharks knowing one or two strokes," Haskins said. "What we try to do is give them a solid background in all the competitive strokes and let the kids get a taste of what it's like to swim competitively."

Saturday at Steamboat, the Sharks had their first taste of competition, and though the program doesn't look at final places as the true measuring stick of success, they did finish respectably.

The Sea Sharks finished in the middle of the pack with a fourth place out of seven teams.

Eight-year-old Kevin Murray was the high-point leader for the team at the Steamboat meet.

This week, the swimmers, parents and the coaches will point their vehicles the opposite direction, as they head to Rangely for their second meet.

Meets aren't the only thing the Sea Sharks can look forward to in the upcoming weeks. In less than a month, they will no longer be confined to an indoor pool.

Beginning in July, the team will start practicing and competing at the public pool at Craig City Park. Though the team will switch pools, they will not switch focus.

"We just want to make sure the kids have a positive experience when entering competitive swimming," Haskins said. "If you're too demanding on a young athlete, or try to push them to hard, it will only make the sport a negative, and have a pretty good chance of ruining it for the rest of their lives."

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