Sports

Pride of the Island, North Whidbey Aquatic Club

Megaphone in hand, North Whidbey Aquatic Club coach Neil Romney gets a group of team members organized for another drill during an afternoon practice session at the pool. - Tim Adams/Whidbey News-Times
Megaphone in hand, North Whidbey Aquatic Club coach Neil Romney gets a group of team members organized for another drill during an afternoon practice session at the pool.
— image credit: Tim Adams/Whidbey News-Times

Thanks to a cooperative effort by commissioners from the North Whidbey Park and Recreation District, a dedicated coaching staff, energetic and enthusiastic swimmers and strong parental support, the North Whidbey Aquatic Club continues to grow in numbers every year.

Overseen by head coach Neil Romney who has been with the program for six years, the Aquajets have set team attendance records every year.

“We have 135 members in the group right now ranging in age from 6 through college,” Romney said. “We have seasonal fluctuations up to as many as 155 during the winter months and then we start to taper off a little during the summer.”

Romney said the club is divided into five separate groups based on ability and experience for practice sessions.

“The Bronze is our entry- level swimmers and they practice four times a week for an hour,” he said. “The next is the Silver team that practices four times a week for an hour and 15 minutes. After that, we have the Gold team that practices six time a week, followed by the juniors and the seniors.”

The senior group is typically the smallest of the five.

“Seniors practice 17 and-a-half hours a week and that is a big commitment,” Romney said. “We have about eight seniors right now and they are the oldest and most experienced kids, the hardest workers and the most ambitious swimmers we have. They are the team leaders and set examples for the rest of the kids.”

During the season, the North Whidbey Aquatic Club is always on the go, participating in meets all over the Pacific Northwest.

“We usually have a meet a month for each age group,” Romney said. “Of course, this usually means about two meets a month for the coaches.”

Thankfully, Romney has an outstanding group of coaches assisting him.

Annie Conto is the Bronze coach and said she has been coaching on and off for six years.

A graduate of Oak Harbor High School where she was a member of the swim team, Conto said the main emphasis with members of the Bronze team is working on basic swimming skills and stroke technique.

“I have 50 kids in the group ranging in age from 6 to 13,” she said.

Assisting Conto is Amanda Streubel who attends Coupeville High School, and is also a member of the OHHS swim team.

Kyle Siminski is the Silver team coach and OHHS swimmer Tori Nickerson coaches the Gold team.

“We have a great group of energetic and enthusiastic coaches, and the kids progress is a reflection of that,” Romney said.

With so many kids involved in the program, Romney said many times the kids end up working on their own when he or one of the other coaches are involved working on individual drills with other swimmers.

“We are fortunate to have kids like we do,” he said. “You won’t find too many times that kids are willing to work on their own without supervision. We have a fantastic group.”

Romney said he is very fortunate that pool director Craig Carlson and members of the North Whidbey Park and Recreation Committee have given the team the extra pool time and space the team needs to accommodate growth.

“It’s a cooperative effort and we’ve been fortunate enough to get the amount of pool time we need for practice with the large amount of kids we have on the team,” he said. “It’s a credit to the parents, the directors the community and the kids that they have given us this consideration.”

The club is always seeking new swimmers and anyone who is interested in becoming a member should call Romney at 675-7665, or visit the team’s Web site at www.teamunify.com/pnswznwac.

Tryouts occur at the pool on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:45 to 5:30 p.m. New swimmers should be able to swim a length of the pool in freestyle and backstroke.

Breaststroke, butterfly, flip turns and other advanced techniques will be taught.

The first two weeks are free.

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