NORTH HILLS - The 2012 North Hills Swim Team won the annual Parkersburg City Swim Championship for the 40th year.
The team competed under the direction of Linda Alt, Amy Alt, Caitlin Wareheim, Hannah Wareheim, Alexa Standley, Megan Dillon and Eric Eisenmann. Swimmers from ages 5 and up competed in four meets, leading up to the City Meet at the Parkersburg YMCA on July 21.
Although some of the North Hills coaches and swimmers also compete during the regular season, many of the young swimmers take advantage of the summer leagues to improve their skills and enjoy the opportunity to participate in competition. There are families who live out of state, but plan one- to two- week-long visits to a grandparent in town, so their children can take lessons at North Hills swimming pool or be a part of the team for those weeks.
The Sarah (St. Jean) Connelly family visited from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to spend three weeks with grandparents and to take swim lessons from the North Hills instructors.
The North Hills Swim Team began in 1972, under the direction of Linda Alt, Donna Blankman and Tim Buskirk. The original team had about 60 swimmers, and that year's city championship was held at North Hills.
In previous years, the North Hills team has been assisted by local swimmers who continued competitive swimming at the collegiate level. Former coaches include Kim Kaufman, who became WVU's first female All-American swimmer; Rob St. Jean (Ohio University), Carol Mazur (WVU), Mike Mazur (West Point), Aileen Pagilagan (Ohio State), Mike Breeden (Auburn), Karen Cone (University of South Carolina), John Frost (Virginia Tech), Cathy Alt (West Virginia Wesleyan), Eric Bugyis (Cleveland State), Tracy Alt (WVU), Jessica Bracamontes (Wheeling Jesuit), and Amy Alt (Fairmont State).
Linda Alt said, "I have always taught Red Cross swimming lessons, and started them in 1972 at North Hills. Lessons have always made the big difference. We teach our kids how to swim the strokes, and then encouraged parents to put them on the swim team."
Alt said North Hills won the City Meet in 1972, and has won each year since except for 1990, when the Marietta YMCA won.
Alt attributes the swim team's success to the swimming program. "We teach our lessons and we have great assistant coaches. I typically hire two coaches for our 8 and unders, two more for our 9- and 10-year-olds, and one or more for the 11 and overs."
Some summers, North Hills has had 100 or more swimmers, but for the past few years 80 or so have participated. The kids practice daily and attend the meets as well as the City Championship, said Alt, Parkersburg High School swim team coach.
"It has been a pleasure for me to be the coach of the North Hills team all these years. I managed the pool for 38 years, and I take great pride in our pool," Alt said.
"I am most proud of the success we have had with our lessons and our winning swim teams. It is a thrill to teach a child how to swim and then put them on the team and help them to become a good and fast swimmer," Alt said.
Amy Eichstadt Waun, swimmer and coach from 1982-1993, said she has wonderful memories of summer time at North Hills swimming pool, not only as a child but also as a teenager. She worked as a lifeguard, swim lesson teacher and swim team coach.
"Linda had such a passion for swimming and teaching the key skills to all ages. Now as a mother of two young girls, I have been reliving so many experiences, particularly the out-of-the pool exercises to learn freestyle, as I teach my girls," said Waun, who no longer lives in Parkersburg.
Melanie Lewis Cavanaugh said when her family built a summer home here four years ago, she was looking for a swim program for her two daughters.
"As I called around requesting the best around, everyone I spoke to said Linda Alt, and she is the reason why we became members of North Hills. Her program has laid the foundation for my girls to be strong, confident swimmers," Cavanaugh said.
"When we moved to North Hills in 1973, I couldn't wait to swim for the Sprinters," said Kelly Farrell Wiseman. "The team was in its second year and already Linda was working on her legacy."
Years later, Wiseman said, she was delighted Alt coached her three girls as they swam for North Hills and the YMCA.
"Linda has touched so many young lives in her 40 years at North Hills. I feel tremendously blessed to have been able to bear witness to that as a swimmer, a parent and a volunteer," Wiseman said.