Wayne Lowery looked across the pool at the Rock Hill Aquatic Center on Wednesday and said, "We might be small in numbers, but we are fast and have talent.''
They are the 12 swimmers -- six girls and six boys -- who make up the first-ever swim team at Westminster Catawba Christian School. The team has been practicing at the center for three months and at 7:30 p.m. today, hosts its first meet.
Lowery said six other private schools are coming and he expects at least 128 swimmers to compete. The Indians have four more meets, all on the road.
"When I heard about this job, I knew it was for me,'' said Lowery, a stay-at-home dad. "I've helped at Northwestern for two years and Susan Snyder, the swim coach there, told me Westminster Catawba was hunting a coach.
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"I picked up the phone right away and called Mike Scurlock, the AD, and told him I was interested. After two interviews, they called and offered me the job. This is my job right here.''
Swimmers are allowed to compete in two individual events and relays. Except for one relay, Lowery has all of the races covered. And he thinks his team will fare well because even though it's young, it has experience. Most have competed in club swimming for years.
Sophomore Katie Buskirk has competed since she was 7 years old. She swam for Rock Hill High School last year before switching schools and was the state's 20th-ranked swimmer in the 100 backstroke.
"It's great to have a team and it's good to have an experienced coach,'' she said. "He knows swimming and is the kind of coach we needed. He's worked us hard and I think we will have a good season.''
Scurlock will be on hand today to help with the meet, which will be swam in eight lanes. He said the school was looking for a winter sport for its student-athletes other than basketball and felt swimming might be a good choice if there was enough interest.
He brought regulation football back to Westminster Catawba in the fall after a three-year absence. With swimming added, the school has 13 varsity sports.
"We are growing,'' Scurlock said. "Last year we had 131 students in grades 9-12. This year we have a little over 150. We have advertised aggressively for students, offering parents an alternative to public school.
"And you might think swimming is inexpensive. It's not. Cost us $2,000 to practice here and hold one meet. It's worth it for our kids and parents.''
Lowery started swimming competitively at age 10. He swam until he was 18 and graduated from Northwestern in 1987. But there was no high school swimming back then and his only option was team swimming through local recreation programs.
He got his love back for the sport when he "fell'' into the Northwestern assistant's job two years ago. He is a security supervisor at Carowinds in the summer, but will be back with the Trojans when the season starts in September.
"What's good about this team is that our swimmers with the most experience have stepped up and helped the younger ones,'' he said. "We have a couple of sophomores, a couple of juniors and two seniors. The rest are seventh-graders.
"I've told every one of them to remember that everything we do in our first meet will be a school record. That we will be setting the standard at Westminster Catawba for the rest of the season and for years to come.''
The swimmers are excited, and not just because it's their first meet and the school's first. Lowery has scouted the competition and noted that his swimmers' practice times are competitive with the best times of the swimmers coming to town today.
"I really didn't know what to expect, this being our first year,'' sophomore Joe Collins said. "I felt I should give it a try and I've been impressed with our coach and everyone on the team.
"We are versatile, (we) have swimmers who can compete and win in a lot of events. We don't have a lot of people, but fatigue will not be a factor. We've been practicing for three months.''
• What: Westminster Catawba Christian School's first swim meet
• When: 7:30 p.m. today
• Where: The Rock Hill Aquatics Center
• Who: Seven teams, 128 swimmers
• Westminster Catawba's team: Girls -- Katie Buskirk, Courtney Sells, Caitlin Sells, Kylie McDonald, Sierra Underwood, Hannah Jones. Boys -- Joe Collins, Ben Collins, Matthew Lollis, Jonathon Lollis, Cooper Lambert, Ax Dillingham
• Admission: $5