By Destiny Mitchell
The TorC TigerSharks held their end-of-year meet and awards ceremony on Saturday, Aug. 16, at the City of Truth or Consequences Swimming Pool and J.A. Hodges Park. The TigerSharks are the competitive component of the Sierra County Swim Team, which is slated to become year-round, utilizing the inflatable pool cover in the winter. However, the TigerSharks finished off the season with a bang, hosting an inter-squad exhibition meet, joined by several members from the Deming Dolphins, and competing against each other.
Several members of the public were in attendance, as well as the team’s extended family of parents, siblings, grandparents, friends and neighbors, who all turned up to cheer them on. The team, originally consisting of 57 members, split in half to compete – the Tigers versus the Sharks. It was a difficult battle between the teams, with the scores flip-flopping back and forth between events. However, the Sharks ended up taking the glory, which the team attributed to one man, Gerson Montoya. Though the scoring difference did come down to about 20 points (easily racked up by one swimmer), it was a victory given to the entire Sharks team, followed by a close defeat of the Tigers. The swimmers took both in stride, with the victorious Sharks earning suckers during the awards ceremony.
Handing out awards was difficult this year. Not only did all of the swimmers improve dramatically, from skills to speed, but they all displayed maturity and leadership qualities to be commended. Taking more than 20 swimmers to the State Championships this year – more than ever before – as well as sweeping first, second and third places at numerous swim meets this season, the TigerSharks demonstrated that, on a whole, they had improved, as well as setting many personal bests. Their ability to learn, as well as teach was also evident in their free swimming lessons offered in July and August. It is a heartening experience to watch a nine-year-old girl teach another nine-year-old girl how to dive for rings, how to kick properly, or learn to breathe rhythmically. These swimmers not only excelled at their tasks, they also showed that they were able to pass that information on, and gained a whole new perspective on swimming, and an introduction to teaching. With a handful of team members participating in Junior Lifeguard training over the past few weeks, they have also demonstrated that they have the maturity to recognize dangerous situations and act appropriately.
However, Coach Destiny evaluated the swimmers as best she could. Calculating earned “brownie points” as well as time improvements, willingness to help, attendance, and overall swimming skills, she determined the recipients of the special awards given during the end-of-year awards ceremony. All district participants received a TigerShark medallion, and a participation ribbon from the Silver City meet. Sixteen individual swimmers received special swimming pins for their best strokes. Most improved was again difficult to ascertain, considering the level of improvement of the team as a whole, but the top 10 most improved swimmers for 2014 were: Mariah Hernandez, Tara Neeley, Jaimee Green, Angela Valdez, Evangelia Giannoglou, Ella Cano-Linson, Tristan Bomer, Angel Ontiveros, Joshua Tolley, and Joseph Valdez. The recipients for the Best All-Around Swimmer this season were: Abi Claesson, Tessa Ontiveros, Shelbi Hursh, McKensi Spears, Lucera Montoya, Yesenia Zuniga, Gerson Montoya, Shane Neeley, Reno McKinley and Buddy Neeley.
A very special award is given out each season that has a steeped and emotional history associated with the team. The Tiger Heart Award is given to one swimmer each season, and is the highest honor that the team can give. Originally, the Bowden White Award, in memory of a young swimmer who passed away during the season in the mid ‘90s, the Tiger Heart award has grown to encompass the honoring of the heart and soul of the team. This trophy signifies a swimmer who has characteristics similar to those of Bowden White. At seven years old, little Bowden could not be put off. His unique style of doing the butterfly by almost dislocating his shoulders still burns in the memory of Coach Destiny. His loss, and that of his mother and injuries of his brother were felt throughout the team, but his memory as an outstanding swimmer, and the true heart of the team, lives on in this annual award. Though sometimes given to a young swimmer who carries the teams support through their struggle to stay up with much older and stronger swimmers, this award has had several recipients who are currently on the team. Again, this award was hard to choose this year, but Coach Destiny did her best to pick appropriately. Debating for days between two swimmers who definitely deserved the award, she finally decided to give it to them both. Seven-year-old Angelica Giardetti was one of the recipients this year. Always quick with respect and courtesy to her coaches, teammates and lifeguards, Angelica exemplified the true heart of the team, doing her utmost to sweep the competition no matter where she swam. Placing in the top 10 at the 8 & Under meet this year, as well as fifth at the State Competitions, she demonstrated her desire to be a contender. Not afraid of any challenge, she kept pace with her older sister in many events, and was a huge asset to any relay team. Her personality, dedication, perseverance, and attitude shone through in all of her endeavors this season. When Coach Destiny thinks of the heart of the team, Angelica Giardetti is where she looks. The other recipient of the award was a truly dedicated swimmer. Miss Shelbi Hursh has been on the team for more than four years, and has proven herself many times over. Shelbi was the first to get to practice and the last to leave, at every practice. Never one to backtalk, she eagerly took assignments to do whatever was needed. From private swim lessons, to teaching diving skills, Shelbi could do anything! She attended every meet and swam every event. Sometimes she lost, being 13 racing 14 year olds, but she never let it get to her. She would hop up on the block for the next race no matter what the odds. She may have known in her heart that the competition would get her, but she gave it 100 percent every time. In her final butterfly race of the year, she took on three 14 & Up boys! And though she lost by milliseconds, she still exited the water proud of her accomplishments, and eager to take the next challenge. Always a kind word, always a helping hand, always a positive attitude, Shelbi was the soul of the team this season.
All of the swimmers were exceptional this year, all tried their best, their hardest, and reaped the benefits of it. Coach Destiny has never been so proud of her team! Clawing their way up to 15th place in State, higher than they’ve ever placed before, was also a milestone accomplishment. And they did all of these things with the full support of the community, the availability of resources from the City of Truth or Consequences, and with the hard work and dedication of the Sierra County Swim Team family. We look forward to next season!
With one more weekend of free swimming lessons left to finish, the Swim Team will reunite in October to begin year around practices. Anyone who is interested is invited to check it out. Annual cost of admission to the team is $35, with additional monthly practice fees. Be on the lookout for future fundraisers and information.
Once again, thank you for your continued support! We could not have done it without you, Truth or Consequences!