LTCC Swim Team Established 1980
by Team Manager, Mary Konzelmann (Spino) 1980-1985
How did it all begin? Well, as a Mom in a suburban area, we have all heard the endless summer vacation question from our kids – “what are we going to do today?”
In Green Township, we needed an activity to keep the kids occupied and give them something to look forward to. My family joined the Newton Swim Team to find out how it all worked and what we had to do to be accepted into the Walkill Valley Conference.
I loved the fact that it is a recreation league and we could just have the kids learn some new strokes and sportsmanship while meeting all the other kids from different lakes who were involved. We did not push for Olympians or coach only one stroke. We emphasized fun, encouragement and comradery. Some of the kids went on to swim in high school and college. As an aside, water safety is a skill for all our kids.
My daughter’s first race, at five years of age, was done in doggy paddle for 25 meters, but all that mattered was her courage to do it and getting to the end. Jessica became coach of team for a couple of years while she was in college and Jeannine and Willie Yarzab became lifeguards. Willie was a certified lifeguard in eighth grade and Tina and I went to the Green Township school award ceremony to present him with a special plaque for his service to the community.
The next issue was raising the money to fund the team without any burden on the members. I was contacted by Veronica Mondrinos, a young mother of a toddler and former swimmer, who volunteered to use her teaching connections to get us into a candy bar campaign. So, the kids all sold the candy, three times as a matter of fact, and we made enough to build the rafts with the requested volunteer help of a lot of Dads and funds to pay the coach.
Next we needed ropes and buoys for the swim lanes. We ran a “Pledge a Buoy” fund raiser and I can say very happily, most of that money was covered by our senior citizens or empty nesters who told me they wished there was a team when their kids were little
As my final security blanket for this new adventure, Capt. Bill Peters offered me a blank check for whatever else we may need. I never had to use his favor, but it took the pressure off.
The rafts were built under the direction of Laz Raffay. One was a standing 10 x 24 foot raft that the Dads lifted and placed in the water (Tom Yarzab got the corner that went in the muck, but he was a trooper) and then some of the team members pushed the floating raft 50 meters out into the lake for anchoring. Seems the raft broke loose every year and the team and I had to go to end of the lake and swim it back to the beach, enduring the weeds along the way!
Practices began with Coach Tina, formerly of the Newton Swim Team. We always had practice in the afternoon so that the kids could sleep in and Moms could run all their errands before relaxing on the beach while we worked with the kids. Mrs. Anne Drummond and myself worked with the eight and under little swimmers for the first hour and then Tina took over with the older kids.
I had them do a lap around the softball field, then some stretches and stroke exercises on the bench and then we hit the water. Sometimes, we had the big kids take the little ones on kick boards out to the far dock to learn diving. This was big time stuff to a five year old. It was great to see the older kids helping encourage the little ones.
We had a practice meet against Newton so the kids knew what to expect in a real meet. We learned that it takes a lot of parents to run the refreshment stand, score keepers, announcer, head judge and many timers on the dock. I cannot say thank-you enough for all of the parents who made this work throughout the season.
After the first meet, the boys were surprised by the need for the speedo swimsuits, let alone bathing caps, but they came on board because the outfit helps better your time! Back then, the kids had a ritual of eating Jello powder before a race for more energy. Didn’t hurt and if it gave them more spunk, that was a good thing.
We kept the kids together so that every race had cheerleaders on the beach. Sometimes at an away meet, against a bigger team, we would set an attainable score for our team, usually 65, and if they did it, we treated them to Dairy Queen on the way home.
In a lot of races and the relays, we let a lot of the younger kids participate just to build their confidence and show real sportsmanship for the team. One time, we did not have enough kids for at meet at Cliffwood Lake so both team managers decided we would just have some fun. The eight and unders raced the big kids, but the big kids had to hold one leg and swim with one arm and one leg. Then the managers raced, I lost because I am not the world’s greatest swimmer, but I could make the little ones believe they could do it. We all had a great morning.
At the end of each season, the kids would get sponsors for pennies or dollars per lap and this was our fundraiser. Some of the parents and myself also got involved in the lap challenge just to show support for all the hard work the kids had done. Once it was held at Newton pool. Bob Drummond and I were up to 100 laps and then I let him win at 101. The hardest thing for me to do was to try to organize 16 adults into a relay, but it was a lot of fun once we were ready to go.
The swimmers all had the same sweatshirt and collected patches from the team, championships and invitationals, like Blair Academy. My daughter said it was like a varsity jacket for swimming!! We also had a board in the clubhouse for all of the age group record holders. It gave them incentive to strive for the record and get on the board. Steve Hitzel held the record for 50 meter freestyle. After aging out of the team, he would drop by and jump in the water with the kids so they could chase him.
In 1983 we voted on the name for our team and became the “Lake Tranquility Thunderbolts” with a banner presented to us by our starter, Andy Honeycheck. This banner was proudly displayed at the championship meet and other events.
The kids became good friends with lot of kids from Green and later on, they already knew some other kids when they went on to Newton High because of the swim team.