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Homeschool swim team making waves in Texas
By Andrea Longbottom
Fourteen homeschooled high schoolers won the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) Division III State Swimming and Diving Championships on February 19, 2005. Twenty-eight private and parochial schools across Texas competed in the Division III championships, which were held at the University of Texas in Austin. The winning boys' and girls' teams each competed against approximately 20 other teams, which included some of the strongest high school-age swimmers in the state. The state victory followed the team's win at the regional meet in Brownsville, Texas, on February 5, 2005.
The 2004-2005 year marks the second swim season for the homeschoolers, who swim for Vanguard Christian Institute in Boerne, Texas. Before Vanguard accepted the homeschool swimmers under the school's umbrella program, homeschoolers in the San Antonio area were not able to compete against other high schools. Two mothers, Susan Patterson and Joyce McKay, began researching schools that would allow homeschoolers to join their swim teams. "We just kept pushing and pushing," says Joyce McKay, whose two sons are now on the Vanguard team. Patterson and McKay found a helping hand when they approached Greg Parker, Athletic Director at Vanguard Christian Institute. Parker was familiar with homeschoolers; in fact, homeschooling parents had founded the Christian school. "When they [Patterson and McKay] approached me about it, I thought it was fine," says Parker, who swam competitively in high school. "It was an opportunity to provide for the students."
The Vanguard swim team was launched in fall 2003 with six swimmers, most of them home educated. In the 2004-2005 season, all 14 members of the team were homeschooled. Many of the swimmers had not worked together before the first meet in the fall. Jonathan Murata, a sophomore who captured fifth-place finishes in the men's 100- and 200-yard freestyle, says the state championship brought the team together. "Winning doesn't matter," he says. "What matters is working as a team."
Parker oversees the team and helps organize meets, but the students receive most of their training in swimming clubs. The swimmers' parents lend a hand when needed. Rick Murata, whose two sons swim for Vanguard, helped organize the team at meets and accompanied the swimmers to the state championships. "It was fun to be a part of and to watch them do well," he says.
Senior Blake McKay says he anticipated the men's championship victory. As the winners were being announced on one side of the pool, McKay gathered his teammates on the opposite side, so they would be ready to walk across the bulkhead in the middle of the pool when their names were announced.
McKay took a gold medal in the 200-yard individual medley race and a silver in the 100-yard breaststroke. He says the team members' skill and commitment to swimming helped them succeed. "Most of us had been swimming for several years and had a love and a passion for the sport."
"I was just happy to go to state," said 18-year-old Lauren Stapley, who was unsure earlier in the year whether she would be able to compete. Due to a shoulder injury, she had spent the autumn resting her arm and taking physical therapy. Stapley walked away from the championships with a gold medal in the 100-yard backstroke and a bronze in the 100-yard freestyle.
Sophomore Katie Patterson won first place in the 500-yard freestyle and in the 200-yard individual medley. "We were ready to compete hard," she says of the team's preparation. Patterson plans to continue swimming for Vanguard through high school.
Homeschooling has given these students the flexibility and time to develop their swimming skills. "We can work our schedule around it," says Torey Ann Murata, mother of swimmers Jonathan and Daniel Murata. She adds that her children would often finish their schoolwork in the morning and head to the pool after lunch, beating the after-school crowds. Freshman Daniel Murata, who won a gold medal in the 50-yard freestyle and a silver in the 100-yard butterfly, says homeschooling has given him the confidence to persevere, a quality that helped him devote time to swimming even when he wasn't being coached. "Dedication and hard work pays off," says 16-year-old Trent McKay, who won a silver medal in the 100-yard backstroke and a bronze in the 200 individual medley. He thanks his parents and swimming coach for their encouragement. "Even when I didn't want to swim, they would keep me going," he says. McKay encourages other homeschoolers to compete athletically. "It's definitely worth it," he says.
L to R, back row: Coach Greg Parker, Andrew Givler, Stephen Henderson, Daniel Murata, Blake McKay, Jonathan Murata, Stephen Rush, Trent McKay, Josh Marquez, Assistant Coach Rick Murata
Front row: Katie Laws, Karissa Milu, Katie Patterson, Lauren Brooks, Lauren Stapley, Courtney Laws