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Sports

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If you go
What: City Dive Meet
When: July 25-26; Friday: 5:30 p.m., Saturday: 8 a.m.
Where: Helen P. Brown Natatorium
Teams competing: Arlington Park, Avalon, Blackhawk, Glenaqua, Lifetime Sports Academy, Orchard Ridge, Park Forest, Pocahontas, Sycamore Hills
What: City Swim Meet
When: Aug. 1-3; Friday: 4:40 p.m., Saturday: 8:20 a.m., Sunday: 1 p.m.
Where: Helen P. Brown Natatorium
Teams competing: Arlington Park, Autumn Ridge, Avalon, Blackhawk, Club North Pointe, Columbia City, Fort Wayne Country Club, Glenaqua, Lifetime Sports Academy, New Haven, Orchard Ridge, Park Forest, Pine Valley, Pocahontas, Sycamore Hills
Photos by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Chris Wenger, 13, with Arlington Park, concentrates as he participates in a recent Uno Dive Invitational at Orchard Ridge Country Club.

Exciting times for city swim, dive event

Competition better even as ranks thin

Kayla Luarde, 14, with Avalon Swim and Dive, competes in the Uno Dive Invitational.
Isabella Kaiser, 15, left, and Spencer Frain, 15, both of Blackhawk Swim Club, perform synchronized diving at the Uno Dive Invitational at Orchard Ridge Country Club.

– For the past 53 years, the Fort Wayne City Swim and Dive Championships have been the culmination of work put in by athletes, coaches and volunteers throughout the summer. The atmosphere the city meets provide is different than dual meets that are used in preparation for the championship.

“The city meet is one of my favorite things and my favorite swim meet ever,” Orchard Ridge swim coach Julie Anderson said. “The best meets are the ones that come down to the last few relays to see who’s going to win.”

That’s exactly what happened last year when Blackhawk and Orchard Ridge were separated by 11 points.

“It’s always exciting to see what happens,” Anderson said, “whether you’re competing for first or 13th place. It’s always more exciting to have it close.”

It wasn’t always close. For five years, Sycamore Hills dominated the city scene. Teams such as Blackhawk and Orchard Ridge have come up through the city’s ranks in recent years because of continuity from coaches and athletes.

Chris Knoblauch took over as coach at Blackhawk five years ago.

“Five years ago, we were at the very bottom of the city leagues,” he said. “In a four-year period, we went from the bottom to winning city.

“It’s hasn’t been just an improvement on speed, but we’ve seen more of a commitment over the past five years. Swimmers have definitely made the effort to be at practice and do things correctly.”

Anderson has been coaching at Orchard Ridge for 12 years and has seen improvement in her team’s performance.

“When kids typically reach ages 13, 14 or 15, they may stop swimming to do other sports,” she said. “We still have the 13-and-over swimmers that have stuck through the program since they were 8-and-unders.”

This kind of commitment is what drives many of the private pools. Pools such as Blackhawk and Avalon are fed by memberships, which have been declining in recent years.

Kevin Roe, the president of the board of directors at Blackhawk, has seen the effects of the decline.

“Blackhawk is a pool that is owned by the members,” he said.

Many members donate their time and talent to keep the pools operating.

“Some members have professions that they can help us out.

“We have a plumber, an electrician, and a guy on the board that does all the facilities. This is also the first year we’ve had wireless internet at the pool.”

Other pools such as Orchard Ridge and Arlington Park are fed by the country club or housing association membership fees.

The city swim and dive scene continues to grow, however.

Arlington Park dive coach Aaron Krafft has seen significant increase in dive team participation.

“Two years ago, we had 30 divers,” he said. “This year, we had 45 registered divers. Most divers returned, but we had quite a few new divers sign up.”

There have been some changes to the format of the city’s dive competition.

“Age groups now have five levels,” Krafft said. “Levels are determined by dive difficulty and skill dives. Level 1 starts with entries and jumps and goes up based on the divers’ skills.

“It gives divers more opportunities to dive at their own pace and prevents the same kids, those who dive year-round, from winning every year.”

Anderson is happy with the change.

“The change enables everyone to actually compete and not just do exhibition dives,” she said.

areichel@jg.net

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