Eighteen members of the Liberty County Recreation Department Hammerhead swim team competed at the 2009 Georgia Recreation and Parks Association Swimming Championships in Tifton the weekend of July 24.
Thirteen of the swimmers earned medals and three took first in their divisions.
Sandra Scott, 10, earned two first place medals, one in the 25-yard butterfly and the other in the 100-yard individual medley.
Josh Morris, 8, earned first in the 50-yard freestyle and Margaret Turner finished first in the 50-yard breast stroke.
For Hammerhead coach Susan Baker it was a bittersweet finish to her coaching career in Liberty County. She is preparing to join her husband and younger son in El Paso, Texas.
"I was expecting good placing but I was not expecting four first place medals, three runner ups and the others placing well in medals," Baker said, nearing tears. "We took 18 to state and 13 medals came home."
Scott, who started swimming more than three years ago, said she became interested in the sport when a third grade friend suggested she join the team.
"It feels good because when you work out and then win it shows it all pays off," Scott said. "I like how it makes me feel strong because you go faster as you get better."
Morris’ mother, Martha, said her son Josh started swimming to join his siblings on the team.
"Last year he couldn’t even dive," Martha Morris said. "And now it’s his first full year of swimming and he got a first place medal."
Josh Morris said he enjoyed swimming and plans to be back next season. He said he prefers to swim free-style events.
"I’ve been swimming for four years, Margaret Turner, 14, a freshman at Liberty County High School, said. "I swam at the Y, the LCRD and I’m currently swimming out of Savannah. I like the adrenaline rush I get when I jump into the water. The fear and excitement of swimming and competing is just amazing."
Turner said her goal is to receive a swimming scholarship to Auburn. She said swimming keeps her in shape and that she likes the butterfly stroke.
"It requires a lot of upper body strength but I love it," she said.
"It was fun to watch a program that really wasn’t there and build it slowly but surely up to the top to where we have it right now," Baker said looking back over the past few seasons. "I hope that after I leave, the success continues for these kids because they deserve it. They are wonderful and I could not have asked for better children. Their parents raised them well and they are just like my own. I enjoyed every minute of it."
Baker said she plans to pursue her swimming career while also attend school in El Paso to finish an accounting degree. Her youngest son already attends the University of Texas at El Paso and her oldest plans to enroll once they get settled.
"I want to go nationals again next year," she said about her swim career. I want to finish my career by placing in the top eight like these guys did."
Preceding the top finish in Tifton, Scott and Hammerhead McKaylin Darsey also placed well at the USA Swimming 14U State long course championships at Georgia Tech July 16-19. They were the only two girls from the squad to qualify for the meet.
Coach Donna Hooe said they were excited about the opportunity to swim in an Olympic style event at the site of the 1996 Olympic swim meet.
Darsey placed 54th in the 200-meter back stroke and 41st place in the 800-meter free-style, but improved her times by 3 and 13 second, respectively, in each event.
Scott finished 18th in the 50-meter free-style, 12th in the 50-meter butterfly, 10th in the 100-meter butterfly, 18th in the 50-meter breast stroke, 13th in the 100-meter back stroke and ninth in the 200-meter IM.