By Jenna Moldaver
SEA BRIGHT – Ship Ahoy Beach Club was alive with young swimmers and cheering crowds July 5 as the pool transformed from a site of relaxation for beach goers into the grounds for the North Shore Swim League’s opening meet. Under sunny skies, Ship Ahoy took on Chapel Beach Club in a meet that featured a total of 52 events.
The meet commenced with the singing of the national anthem by Ship Ahoy’s swimmer Ryan Rawlins, 9, from Fair Haven. Listening from decks above, the audience of parents, family and friends erupted in applause for the unassuming young swimmer with a power ful voice. With that, swimmers and their coaches formed lines behind the starting blocks with the anticipation and energy that precedes a new season ripe with possibility and opportunity.
For many beach club swimmers and parent volunteers, this feeling is incredibly familiar. Parent scorekeeper Maureen McMullan, a Middletown resident and member of Chapel Beach Club, is no stranger to these meets, having spent over a decade attending them.
“My daughter Mary is 17,” McMullan said. “She’s been on the team since she was five and this is her last year.”
McMullan sat beside Lisa Novak, a Ship Ahoy parent also from Middletown. As a pair, the two women recorded the score as the meet progressed. To ensure fairness, one parent from each team fulfills each essential role during meets, acting as timers, judges and more. They keep conscientious records and, in addition to employing their best discretion, also utilize an advanced technology called HydroXphere to record times on a tablet. Parents are the heartbeat of the league, working together across teams and within them to facilitate fairness and fun.
“The older kids help the younger ones, making sure they’re up on the block, don’t miss their race, things like that,” she said.
The support and positivity of the league brings swimmers back year after year. Ryan Kenny, 14, Atlantic Highlands, is participating in her third season with Ship Ahoy. “It’s such a positive environment,” she said.
Taia Kim, a 10-year-old swimmer for Chapel, has already logged four years on the team. The past few years, she said, the team has given her friendships and memories that make each summer at Chapel noteworthy and enjoyable.
“I like how it’s not super competitive,” she said. “It’s swimming just for fun.”
While swimmers, coaches and parents certainly prioritize a positive atmosphere, the meets display a healthy dose of competition and rivalry. In skull swim caps and with “Eat My Bubbles” written in marker across their backs, the swimmers of Ship Ahoy defended their home turf. The audience cheered from all directions – parents above clapping over railings, coaches shouting words of encouragement from the starting blocks and teammates jumping up and down by the edge of the pool – as Ship Ahoy took the victory in the team’s season opener.
Next week, Chapel will bounce back to take on Monmouth Beach & Bath Tennis Club at 6 p.m.
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