Senior staff writer
A unique community swim league that includes young competitors from Meridian Woods in Perry Township and Carefree Estates in Greenwood is nearing the pinnacle of its 38th season.
The two teams renew their rivalry at the Meridian Woods Park pool Thursday at 6 p.m., and the five-team Community Swim Conference meet is July 16 at Plainfield High School.
“It is competitive; some of the kids who are beginning to swim are ecstatic when they win a heat,” said April Kadel, president of the Meridian Woods team. “It’s so exciting to see them swim, make new friendships and enjoy the water.”
Socializing is important, according to Meridian Woods team treasurer and motor sports enthusiast Joe Monroe.
“It’s a lot like Little League in that it’s a fun league too,” Monroe said. “It gives a lot of kids their first chance to get their feet wet in swimming. And it keeps some high school swimmers in the water during the summer and gives them experience in helping younger kids to swim better.”
It is a cost-effective way for children ages 5 to 17 to enjoy competition and stay in their home area for practice while not traveling far for meets.
Monroe emphasized that the older swimmers gain coaching experience by helping the younger swimmers. Teams square off against each other during the summer in their respective pools, which are 25 yards in length. Event distances are 25 or 50 yards, depending upon age groups, 100 yards for medley relays and 200 yards for freestyle relays.
Practices, normally an hour, are usually in the mornings because the pools open for residents most weekdays at noon.
Meridian Woods is the only team from Perry Township in the conference.
Assistant coach Abby Pongracz, a Roncalli graduate who is majoring in exercise science at Bellarmine University, trained under veteran coach Ed Merkling throughout her swim career with the Rebels and the Jaguars Club.
“Recreational summer competition offers kids a great place to swim, not as serious as club competition,” Pongracz said. “I love seeing these kids enjoy swimming and learning to improve.”
Coaches and veteran swimmers at Meridian Woods include Pongracz, Nick Monroe (Indiana University), Savannah Oeschle (Marian University), Perry Meridian High School swimmers Molly Brodzeller, Julia Barnett, Natalie Monroe, Franklin Central High School swimmers Adam and Joe Bradbender and Roncalli’s Mary Shannon Huck.
About 50 swimmers compete for the Meridian Hills Marlins. Carefree consistently attracts more swimmers each summer. Other teams in the league are from Chapel Glen, Devon and Plainfield.
The conference was founded in March 1979, and the first championship meet was held later that year. Meridian Woods, Carefree, Devon and Chapel Glen are charter members.