The Stuttgart Piranhas swim team ended an impressive season with a long-coveted divisional championship title, along with a weekend of intense finishes at Champs, the individual championships for the European Forces Swim League.
Ninety of the 102 Piranhas converged on the Schwimm-und Sprunghalle at the Europapark in Berlin and brought home the trophy as Rhineland Divisional Champions Jan. 23. The field of competition included the Berlin Bear-a-Cudas and the Heidelberg Sea Lions, but the team to beat was the Kaiserslautern Kingfish. For Piranhas head coach Kara Louk, the come-from-behind win was dramatic.
“All of a sudden, we pulled ahead, and we never looked back,” Louk said. “Every heat, every race, our kids’ performances just kept getting better and better.”
To Louk, one of the delights of the meet was that some of the youngest swimmers performed as consistently as their older teammates.
Like other EFSL teams, youngsters ages 6 to 19 swim together. In Berlin, 10-year-old Evan Heidenreich won golds not only in every individual race, but also in the relays, in which four-person teams compete.
“Some of our younger swimmers really stepped up to the plate,” Louk said. “These are kids who only get three mornings of water time. It reminds us [that] it doesn’t matter who you are, it’s how much you can help the team.”
While the focus at divisionals was the performance of the team as a whole, at Champs, held Feb. 12-13, swimmers competed primarily as individuals.
The Piranhas took 62 swimmers to the Nationaal Zwemcentrum de Tongelreep in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Of the nineteen teams participating, the Piranhas ranked second in points and fifth in medal count.
Among the female swimmers, sisters Gabriela and Caroline Ousley-Naseman won top honors. Caroline, 11, won four gold medals and four silver medals. Gabriela, 8, earned two gold, four silver, and two bronze medals.
The top boys included Bobby Viana, 17, who won two silver medals and four bronzes, and Benjamin Patterson, 12, who won two silvers and two bronzes.
For Louk, the relays at the end of Sunday were the highlight. The Piranhas won gold medals in three of the 200 freestyle relay races, for age groups 11-12, 13-14, and 15-19. The youngest swimmers, ages 10 and under, won fifth place.
“The poor kids were really fighting for their spots on those relays,” Louk said. “And then they really proved themselves at the very end of the meet.”
Now that the competitive season has concluded, the team will shift its focus from competition to training.
After a two-week respite, swimmers will head back to the water on February 28. The coach is confident that swimming year-round will help the team be even more successful in the future.
Swimmer Danny Matchette, whose family will likely transfer this summer, said he’ll miss the team’s rigorous training schedule but, “I’ll swim in the U.S., but it may not be as good as here.”
Stuttgart Piranhas Swim Team will hold spring training from Feb. 28 to June 16. The focus of spring training will be on technique and break down the individual strokes in an effort to improve overall efficiency in the water. Training will occur 2-3 times/week. All swimmers are welcome. For more information, e-mail Joyce Levitt at email@example.com.