At a practice for the South High School girls’ swim team, the swimmers are packed in a line, waiting for a lane to practice in for an upcoming meet. But all around, there are swimmers from Washburn High School, awaiting the same lanes, and practicing for the same meet, as South and Washburn unite as one team.
The two teams merged “because because of numbers,” according to swim team coach Neil Anderson. “Washburn didn’t have enough swimmers,” he stated, “the North-Henry coach became the Southwest coach, and it just made sense for us to become one team.” The merge has created a combined team known as South High Aquatics Washburn Aquatics (SHAWA) with over sixty swimmers and divers in total.
“We really like having them on the team,” said swim team captain and senior Genevieve Hansen of the swimmers and divers from Washburn. Hansen says there is no division between the two teams and the Washburn swimmers are very helpful to South swimmers, although socially they haven’t quite clicked yet. “We’ve really tried to make them part of the team.” says captain Maya Gajavada, a senior. Diver and senior Lucy Hennen concurs, saying “it’s hard to include them in things.” According to junior Signe Rudrud, there is “a definite divide between the schools,” in some situations, because the swimmers from each school tend to “keep to themselves.” Rudrud added that the unity of the team has, however, increased over the course of the season. “Sometimes it feels more like two smaller teams, but we’ve gotten better at being one team,” she stated.
The swimming practices are very different due to the increase in girls, Rudrud commented. “The main drawback [of the merge] is the size of the team is so big, and the YWCA is small to begin with, so it’s harder to get a full workout in,” she said.
In addition, there is now team building for the Washburn girls so that they feel more welcome and comfortable on the team. Senior and new swimmer Rachel Kranz says that during the first week of the season, the team got together in a circle and participated in team-building activities to get to know each other better. Kranz added that it also helped the freshmen and new swimmers immensely.
According to Hennen, while the team is not dramatically different, transportation has been difficult. However, South has been good about sending buses out to get swimmers and divers from Washburn.
Hennen wasn’t initially enthused when she heard about the merge because she felt like the team was already big enough, and she wanted the team to stick to their tiger pride. However, she says now she likes the results of the merge. “I was scared,” said Rudrud of her initial feelings when she learned about the merge, “it was terrifying knowing that there were going to be girls I had never swam with or against on the team.” Rudrud now says that she is happy with the merge, and that it’s fun to have girls on the team from other schools.
Anderson says swimmers and divers from Washburn have fit right in, they’re good swimmers, and they have a good mix of ages on the team. “They love it,” Anderson said about the reactions of the South swimmers to the Washburn merge. Anderson says that the merge has made the team a lot bigger, and it’s harder and takes more time to make line ups for meets, but overall, the changes have been good ones.