Swim team hits full swing of summer season in Pratt

Ruby Howell
Pratt Tribune
Pratt swimmers practice their backstrokes at the Ellis Kinney Pool earlier this month.

Pratt Swim Team practices are in full swing, as 51 swimmers get ready for their first swim meet on June 15 at Cheney. Cool weather earlier this month caused some delay in getting started.

Head Coach Tonja Harrison said that pre-pandemic, there were 84 swimmers on the team, so the numbers are down. However, that doesn’t mean that talent is lacking. Eight of the 51 are under the age of 6, and will spend their efforts learning and swimming two strokes: breaststroke and freestyle. All the others, who are seven years old and over, must compete in all four strokes, which include breaststroke, freestyle, butterfly, and backstroke.

Swimmers also compete in the medley relay, in which there are four legs, and one swimmer swims one of the four strokes, and the freestyle relay, in which four swimmers all swim freestyle. These relays can vary across the age divisions, and also be co-ed. Along with the relays and main strokes, older swimmers compete in the Individual Medley (IM). This is exactly what it sounds like: one swimmer swims a length of each stroke consecutively for a total of four lengths. They swim in the order of butterfly, backstroke, breastroke, and finally the freestyle. The sequence builds stamina and determines the best overall swimmer. 

This year, Harrison is the only coach. In the past, Tonya Younie has been the assistant coach, but is out this year after having shoulder surgery. A previous swim team alum, Bailey Noel, is helping Harrison until late June. After that, Harrison will be the only coach. Despite being the only coach, it had always been tradition, and continues to be one, that older swimmers stay after their 7:30am practice to help the little swimmers stay afloat. 

"I do have several of my older kids that help with the younger kids, and I honestly couldn’t do this without their help,” Harrison said. 

Kansas being Kansas, sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate with the swimmers, and the water is either too cold (trust me, “too cold” us much colder than you think) or there was lightning close by. Summer got off to a rather brisk start this year, and so the first two days of practice were spent outside the pool. How do you practice swimming out of the water? Depending on the age groups of the swimmer, practices can be filled with typical conditioning, like pushups, band work, or running. This is why swimmers must always pack tennis shoes and socks for practice! Another out-of-water exercise Harrison employs is to have swimmers lay down their towels and practice dry-land strokes, or paddling their legs only in the baby pool. 

With the weather delay, Harrison is really having to keep everyone on target in order for everyone (especially the littles) to be able to swim their strokes in Cheney. 

“... we are two days behind schedule learning strokes,” Harrison said. “We are pushing extra hard to get everything ready and in before our first meet.” 

For those interested in becoming part of the Pratt swim team next summer, be sure to follow Pratt Swim Team on Facebook. Swim team is for children 5-18 who can swim the length of the Pratt pool, and is offered through the Pratt Rec. Department. Swim Team typically lasts from the last week of May until the end of June.