By Tim Schmidt
For the past few years, the O’Fallon YMCA Sea Dragons swim team was a work in progress.
This year, the commitment and dedication paid off.
The Sea Dragons enjoyed arguably their most successful year in program history with numerous individual and team accomplishments, none bigger than the squad winning the regional competition and qualifying for nearly 100 events more than last year in the area competition.
In addition, they have one swimmer returning to the USA zone championship team and two swimmers earned spots in the national qualifier.
For Coach Amanda Windham, it has been an enjoyable experience seeing the success in the pool.
“The biggest thing is getting the kids to believe in the program, which means they believe in themselves,” she said. “Once that happened and they put the work in, it all started coming together. This has been the best season we’ve ever had.
“I am so proud of what they have accomplished.”
The Sea Dragons put together a superb performance at the regional meet held at Principia College in early March. Competing against several other YMCA programs from the St. Louis area, it was their first regional title in program history.
While others may have been surprised by the Sea Dragons’ rapid improvement, Windham was not.
“In my mind, by November, I thought we could take regionals,” said Windham, who is in her fourth season coaching the team. “I did not tell the kids until we were heading into regionals. Things had to fall in place, kids had to come up with the swims they were capable of.”
One member of the team, Charlotte Reichensperger, will compete on the USA zone championship team later this year.
Two others, Todd Kriss and Nick Verlinden, are in North Carolina this week for the YMCA national qualifying meet. They are the first swimmers in program history to advance that far. Both will compete in the 100 backstroke, with Kriss also swimming in the 100 freestyle and 50 freestyle.
Both are expected to swim in college, Windham said.
“This is very exciting,” Windham said. “It is a great accomplishment. They should be very proud of themselves.”
The majority of the team is comprised of swimmers from western St. Charles County. Their ages range from five to 18.
While Windham hopes this year’s accomplishments are something to build on for the future, she is equally as proud of their involvement outside of the pool.
“We really try to get our kids involved in the community,” Windham said. “I have numerous kids that shadow swim lessons. It is so much more than getting in the water and teaching them to swim fast. We truly try to have a family atmosphere for our team. I am so blessed to coach an amazing group of kids who happen to be good swimmers.”