High School Sports

Northwestern seniors have overseen team's growth

Jeb Watkins (left), Kellie Daley (center) and Bradley Baker have been with the Northwestern swimming program since its inception in 2002.
Jeb Watkins (left), Kellie Daley (center) and Bradley Baker have been with the Northwestern swimming program since its inception in 2002.

Susan Snyder has been coach of the Northwestern High School swim team since its inception in 2002. Now in her sixth season, she has a small crop of seniors -- just five -- to work with.

Three of the five have been with her since the start; Bradley Baker, Kellie Daley and Jeb Watkins. Over the years the trio has seen a lot of pool time and many improvements.

All three made the inaugural Trojans' varsity swim team as seventh-graders. They swam at Winthrop University's Peabody pool until the Rock Hill Aquatic Center opened in 2005.

Home meets were crowded at Peabody and the pool was regarded as slow.

The Rock Hill Aquatic Center is now home. There is plenty of room for home meets. The Class AAAA State Meet was held here last year and will return again at the end of this season. The pool is fast because of its state-of-the-art gutter system.

"This is probably the nicest and fastest pool in the state," Baker said.

Daley agreed and noted a lack of quality pools around the state results in a lopsided schedule with lots of home meets. "The downside is we don't get to travel as much. It's always fun to travel on the bus."

The Trojans opened the season at home. Both the girls' and boys' teams won convincingly over Rock Hill High.

Baker placed first in the 100 free and 100 breaststroke. He was part of the winning 200 medley relay and the 200 free relay teams, as well.

Daley helped win the 200 medley relay and the 400 free relay.

Watkins won the 100 butterfly.

"I like the motivation and dedication that comes from it (swimming) and being part of an elite group coming together," Watkins said.

Snyder will miss this group of seniors.

"They are the first crew that has come in and gone all the way with this program," she said.

In a sport where rosters are dotted with youngsters, Snyder loves the leadership the seniors provide. Two weeks ago the week the team had a couple of "dry land" practices. The seniors organized a scavenger hunt.

Snyder said it took the team an hour and a half to locate all the items hidden in and outside the aquatic center.

"They were really sweating from all the running around. So it was a good workout," she said.

Keeping it fun and competitive for the swimmers is a fine line Snyder has under control. It's important to keep the younger swimmers involved so they will come back every season through their senior years.

With the senior leadership Snyder has, especially Baker, Daley and Watkins, Northwestern's young team will give an all-out effort this season while chasing defending region champion Fort Mill.

"We have to get the team ready to compete without the seniors," Baker said.

Not too worry, though. Snyder has an eager group of young swimmers on the way.

"Our seventh-graders absolutely live it and the seniors look at them and are amazed at the passion they have," Snyder said.