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WHS swim team gears up for SSL meet

The Wasco High School swim team is set for its first meet on March 1 at the Wasco pool. It is a South Sequoia League meet and Shafter, Taft and Delano will compete. It promises to be an opportunity for the team to showcase the talents they have been working hard to cultivate under the leadership of Head Coach Chris Gebhardt.

"Chris has almost a decade of coaching experience. His coaching philosophy is unique. "I look at coaching swimming more than just the swimming. My goal is to help the kids get ready for the real world."

There are three other coaches, Melody Gebhardt and Kenneth Rodriguez and Angela Davila, both WHS graduates.

The team of coaches collaborate to ensure the swimmers get the attention and guidance they need to excel in and out of the pool.

Chris said, "I want them to be able to balance their time between their school activities and homework and swim. And learning that you can't quit, never to say can't, to keep trying. You just have to look at yourself and what you're doing and keep working to improve yourself."

About the dynamics of the swim team, he said, "I've been really excited the last couple of years. These kids have become friends and have a lot of fun together. The older swimmers jump right in to help the younger swimmers. It's a neat experience. It's all happy and supportive. There's no drama of any kind. It's just really a neat group of kids."

He said he is looking forward to the season. "We have enough kids, and they are working so hard that we'll be able to fill every event on varsity and actually have a real JV team this year. My hope is that the girls can repeat and win SSL, and our boys are in a rebuilding phase, and they have a chance to win SSL also."

Melody added, "We have a lot of returning swimmers along with brand new swimmers, and it is always exciting to see the skills that they develop through the season. We have 50 swimmers. The team has grown and doubled in size since last year."

The team is poised for success and has strengths to rely on. "The team's biggest strength, Chris explained, "It's their willingness to try anything I ask them; even if they don't feel confident in themselves, they're still willing to go out and give it a try. They have a tremendous work ethic. They come to practice and work hard. Many come to practice even when it's raining or 34 degrees outside."

He said of the challenges he foresees in the coming year: "The biggest challenge is not having enough space in the pool, having to split practices and having to find the time to cover everything that we want to. We've only got six lanes, with over 40 kids this year and hopefully close to 60 next year. I don't know how we're going to handle practices next year, but we'll make it work."

To foster individual growth among the swimmers, he added, "The challenge is to find a way to push these kids, and my goal is to push them as hard to grow and mature and learn responsibility without pushing so hard that they quit. There' a lot of life skills that these kids don't have, so if you try to force it, they will quit; my goal is to try to teach them."

The camaraderie between the swimmers is something that the coaches encourage. "One of the things that we do, and this is a long-standing tradition even before Chris started coaching the team, the families come together and prepare a pasta dinner for the swimmers the night before each meet. We eat together, hang out, talk about their goals and it's team building and bonding," Melody said.

In the short term, Chris said his goals are "to get the new swimmers to look like they have been swimming for years." His long-term goal is "to continue to build the team, and hopefully, with each year, we can send more of these kids to the Valley Championship."


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