Wylie’s swim team has been working hard this fall in preparation for its district meet coming up Jan. 19-20.
And yes, Wylie DOES have a swim team.
“The team is growing,” Coach Caela Shinkle said of her group. “We have more swimmers than in the past, and we have a diver this year. That’s a new wrinkle.”
The team returns a strong group of juniors who started three years ago as freshmen when Shinkle first began coaching the team.
“My freshmen year, it was kind of an experiment for all of us,” said Justin Calamlam, who swam with the Abilene Tidal Wave club team for seven years prior to joining Wylie’s team. “Swimming was like a dying sport. We wanted to revive it.”
In the years since, the team has seen both its numbers and its accomplishments improve.
“Our team has grown a lot,” Justin said. “Hopefully even after we graduate, the team will continue to grow.”
Mikaela Olson is the team’s lone senior and she said the current group is very close.
“I’ve seen the majority of them swim since they were freshmen,” she said. “They have grown so much. We are a family. We support each other. I’m so proud to have those young men and women as part of the team.”
Wylie’s swim team is small by any standards but because most 4A schools don’t have teams, Wylie has to compete against mostly 5A teams, which makes the Wylie contingent feel even smaller.
“Andrews starts swimming as part of its PE program,” Shinkle said. “They have an easy 60 kids that swim. All of these schools have a pool at their school.”
But Justin said Wylie holds its own.
“Those are all massive schools with really good swimmers,” he said. “But we really do compete with them, even though we are so small.”
In fact, Justin has qualified for the regional meet in each of the last two years. He is hoping to make it three years in a row this year.
“I would like to make it into the Top 8 at regionals,” he said. “State is the ultimate goal. We are a lot faster than last year. We try to best ourselves personally. That’s what matters most.”
The team members have to be committed to their sport. They get up every morning for practice at 6 a.m. at the Redbud YMCA pool. Practice ends from 7:15 to 7:30, and then the students have to get to school on time.
They spend most Saturdays traveling to swim meets in far places like Pecos, Fort Stockton and Lubbock.
“At first it’s a little rough, especially coming out of summer,” Justin said of the early practices. “Once you get used to it, it’s a normal routine.”
Despite the hard work that the students put into their sport, many Wylie students still don’t know Wylie has a swim team. Justin said he often gets incredulous looks when he mentions being on the team.
“All the time,” he said. “They will be like, ‘we have a swim team?’ ”
And although the program hopes to continue to grow, Mikaela said the fact that the team is small makes the teammates feel like family.
“Now we’ve had time to become a family, and I think that’s really cool,” she said. “Everyone’s getting better at each swim meet that we go to. We are all doing our best to make the school proud.”