Whitecaps doing swimmingly

Published 5:54 am Friday, July 23, 2010

Staff Writer

The trophies say it all.
Lined up on a shelf along the concession-stand wall at the Washington Swim Club, they ascend like the pyramids rising from the Egyptian desert. Each year a little larger and more ornate, they have spilled over from the shelf and onto the top of the drink cooler.
Such is the story of success for the Washington Whitecaps of the Greenville Area Summer Swim League.
Originated in 2001 under head coach Scott Pake, the Whitecaps have been consistent winners in the GASSL, even after Pake turned the team over to his brother, Spencer, in 2006.
“It’s a good starting program for kids to start and learn the sport,” Spencer Pake said. “It is fun to watch them grow from doggie paddlers to contenders and being good swimmers.”
The Whitecaps have grown from humble roots to 99 swimmers, ranging in age from 5 to 17, this year. They train two hours a day during the week and compete every Tuesday evening during the six-week season.
With the help of assistant coaches Claire Beacher and Luke Stroud, the team is divided into smaller groups based on skill levels for training.
“It’s a laid-back league and not as intense as the high-school season,” said Spencer, who also coaches the Washington High School Pam Pack swim team. “It’s a fun getaway for the summer swimmers, and the high-school kids like to stay in shape.
“It can be difficult handling a group this large, and I couldn’t do it without the assistant coaches. The goal is to teach the sport of swimming, the proper stroke and technique and the rules and to have fun doing it.”
After receiving his bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in school administration from East Carolina University, the former Washington High standout returned home to coach the Pam Pack. He also signed on with the Whitecaps as an assistant to his brother. When Scott Pake stepped aside four years ago, Spencer Pake took over as head coach and continued the tradition. The Whitecaps have won five GASSL championships since 2004 and hope to add to the trophy shelf when they compete in the league championship meet July 31 at the Greenville Community Pool at Guy Smith Park.
“We would really like to defend the championship we won last year,” Spencer Pake said. “It will be tough this year as there is a lot of competition, the league has grown and every club is faster.”
If league records are any indication, the Whitecaps should be prepared to bring home another trophy. Brandon Neiderhouser, 17, set league records for 15-18 year olds this season in the 50 freestyle, the 50 breaststroke and the 50 butterfly. Megan Baldwin, 13, set a league record for 13-14 year olds in the 50 breaststroke.
For parent and team representative Mary Lovenburg, the Whitecaps are a great way to keep her children on track. Sons Eric, Tony and Patrick have been swimming and competing since they were 5.
“It has given us a routine,” Lovenburg said. “During the year, they have swim practice after school. This is something to do in the summer, and it gives the kids core strength for other sports as well. It is an individual sport where you want to improve, and it is also a team sport.”
As team representative for the past five years, Lovenburg handles the behind-the-scenes details, from swimmer registration to finding judges for the swim meets.
“We have to attend a meeting every month,” Lovenburg said. “We will meet in October to begin preparing for next season. May, June and July get a little busy. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t have such great parent support.”
For more information on the Washington Whitecaps and the Greenville Area Summer Swim League, go to http://www.gogassl.com.