Panthers showing continued growth in pool

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By Scott Akanewich
Sports Editor

One thing remains from when Liberty Hill’s swim program began three years ago until now.

The Panthers still don’t have a pool to call their own to practice and hold home meets in.

However, despite the fact they must still hit the road for all of their competitions, the team has continued to grow, said head coach Michaila Spradlin.

“Being our third year as a swim team and our second with a boys’ team, I think the team has developed tremendously,” she said. “Obviously, this year has had its struggles, but we’ve grown more this year and the community has been more involved. We’ve also added a diversity of talent to the team this year, making this group of kids pretty well-rounded.”

Among the Purple-and-Gold ranks are a pair of underclassmen who have proven to be a force in the pool, said Spradlin.

“Some swimmers that have stood out this year would be Victoria Phegley and Cooper Hardy,” she said. “Cooper is one of our newcomers this year as a freshman and this is Victoria’s second year on the varsity swim team as a sophomore. Both of these swimmers work hard in and out of the pool and it shows in their races. In addition, several of our swimmers have improved this year, such as Austin Moore and Madelyn Edwards – both have dropped time this season and continue to improve their skills.”

While the overall progress of the program remains on the upswing, Spradlin said the pandemic and the logistical challenges it has presented haven’t made it any easier.

“I think overall this season could’ve been better. It was very different the way the meets were set up this year,” she said. “Instead of invitationals with 10-plus teams, all the swim meets this year were tri-meets because of COVID. With that being said, our swimmers came out to every meet and swam their hearts out. I’m very proud of the way my swimmers handled this season and the curve balls that were thrown at them.”

As far as what she’s learned as a coach this season, Spradlin said the additional obstacles created by the pandemic has forced her to be more open-minded in her approach.

“I’ve learned to be more flexible this year,” she said. “It’s hard growing a team and trying to get more swimmers involved when you don’t have a pool to practice in as a team. It’s also hard growing a team during a pandemic with multiple changes throughout this season from UIL. I think moving forward our main goals are to gain more swimmers and hopefully find pools or more opportunities for us to practice as a team.”

Concerning a place for the Panthers to call home, she said the ability for the entire team to gather and work out together every day would be a massive boon to a program that is still in its infancy.

“Honestly, I’m not sure what needs to happen to get a home pool. I think it would have to be a pool built by the city with lanes for competitions and practices that was nearby. It would make a huge difference for the team,” said Spradlin. “Right now, our swimmers are practicing with their club teams. If we had a home pool, we would be able to have practices consistently, as coaches we would be able to work more with the swimmers and it would also help to increase team bonding. Right now, our swimmers only get together as a team for meets. If we had a pool, our swimmers would see each other every day and would be able to work on things like relays.”

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