Hundreds of swimmers converged Saturday morning at the Liberty County/Armed Services YMCA for the annual YMCA Swim Championships.
Teams representing the YMCA branches across Coastal Georgia lined up in age group and swim heats, but despite the competition, the event was more a show of unity and the principles of the YMCA.
“We are celebrating sportsmanship and Christian values and enjoying our time together,” Liberty Branch Aquatics Coordinator Ruth Hubner said.
Hubner has worked at the local Y for three years but was promoted to aquatics coordinator two months ago.
She said what brings everyone together is passion for sharing the sport of swimming and the camaraderie shared between the swimmers and their families eagerly cheering every competitor to the end of each race.
“This is our culminating event for the season,” Hubner said.
She said the Liberty County YMCA swim team trains year-round, but most of the other participating teams began training for the event in June.
As swimmers dived into the pool for their races, timers on the opposite side of the pool waited and encouraged each swimmer to make it to the finish line. The pool area was at near capacity with families wearing the matching color shirts to their swimmers’ cap colors.
Hubner said the staff wants to expand the local Y’s swim programs to one day include a master’s program.
“Master’s program is for anyone over the age of 18 that is interested in adult swimming, whether that be competitively or just for pleasure,” she said. “People want to come in, and they want to work out and have someone to hang out with and analyze their stroke. Even though you are in that lane by yourself as a swimmer, there is a big social component, too, … having someone to motivate you.”
She added that the current swim team program will also be ramped up to include more instructional training in all four swim strokes.
“We have a lot of military families in this area, and while they are here, we want to give them everything they need in order to be successful here and carry that on wherever they go,” Hubner said about the lesson plans they are looking to put in place.
She said the Y currently offers group lessons, private lessons and semi-private lessons.
“We have coaches that have a lot of different variations of certifications and interests and skills,” she said. “I have one coach that has done 92 triathlons.”
Hubner works with special-needs children, and she added that her ultimate goal is to introduce a Liberty County YMCA Special Olympics Swim Team. The Liberty YMCA swim team was well-represented in the meet. Hubner and head life guard Aaron Gregory encouraged and cheered for their local swimmers.
Gregory was named head life guard about a year ago. He said the Y is looking to make swimming a year-round sport locally.
“And have it not just be a summer thing,” he said. “We want to incorporate the YMCA principles of mind, body and spirit.”
Gregory said he is always looking for people interested in becoming a life guard and mentoring youth swimmers.
“You need to be 16 or older,” Gregory said, adding that life guards must take American Red Cross courses. “It is a weeklong course partially online and partially here in our pool. We want folks who are professional, mature and motivators.”
Hubner said pool use is included in the YMCA’s membership fees. She noted that swim lessons and registration to the swim teams are separate fees.
She said the Y also offers water aerobics classes in the mornings and evenings.