The Lenoir City Bettas youth swim team concluded a shortened season Friday and Saturday, falling 385-265 to the Cherokee Country Club swim team in a virtual meet.
"We have just been improving each time and each time they get in the water to compete, they've improved their times," Kim Wiebe, Bettas head coach, said. "They've had an improvement, so that's been really fun and exciting to watch. Without the competition, it's harder to really give it your all and to really try to go after it, but they all did. I was really proud of them."
Top individual finishers were Emily Dubes, who placed first in the 50-yard backstroke; Lauren Dubes, who placed first in the 50-yard breaststroke; Will Dubes, who placed first in the 50-yard freestyle and 50-yard backstroke; Gaby Jorgensen, who placed first in the 50-yard butterfly; Nora Scarbrough, who placed first in the 25-yard freestyle; Ellie Sims, who placed first in the 200-yard individual medley; Kate Stewart, who placed first in the 50-yard freestyle; Autumn Stewart, who placed first in the 50-yard backstroke; Karley Wolfgram, who placed first in the 50-yard breaststroke and 100-yard individual medley; and Taylor Wolfgram, who placed first in the 25-yard breaststroke.
Karley Wolfgram set a new team record in the 100-yard individual medley with a time of 1:08.89.
Lenoir City High School junior Will Dubes said this has been his most difficult season.
"We had a very good meet, and I thought it went very well," he said. "The team did well in general. I didn't get my best times, but I still thought it was a great season. This season was strange because none of us thought this was going to happen and there were only two meets. The teams didn't even come because we had virtual meets, and that was OK, but it still just didn't have that same atmosphere of racing them, saying, 'Good job and good game,' getting your best times and stuff like that. I think having other people who aren't on your team in the water help you push to get best times."
The coaching staff constantly encouraged the team to finish the year on a strong note given the circumstances.
"It's definitely been challenging without the in-person competition without the big meets that are super exciting, but I think we've made the best of it," Wiebe said. "The kids have been troopers and work hard anyway. They don't have the competition that they usually do, and they've been motivated to really improve. I've been really impressed with them even with everything going on, they've been giving it their best."
After the Bettas transitioned to Lenoir City from Tellico Village this year, Wiebe believes the addition of USA Swimming official John Wand proved highly beneficial.
"I just moved into the community in October and moved from Southwest Kentucky, where I coached until 2017 both with USA and high school," Wand said. "I met Kim from the Tellico Village scenario, and she asked if I liked it here so that's how I got here. Anytime you're around kids and families that enjoy the water, it's fantastic. I always look it that in any lake community, every child should know how to swim — this is an opportunity to do that."
Wand was instrumental in helping teach techniques and provide workouts for the team.
"The emphasis is the proper spacing of the kids so that they're aren't going to have any issues of passing the COVID-19 on," he said. "From that standpoint, you're modifying how the workout actually runs, so it's not one of those things where you're trying to get yardage in. We're focused on the technique and, in that sense, they're going to swim faster anyway. That's been our focus this year. Competition comes from within ... but again this year, it was purely to make sure the kids were in a safe environment and working on technique."
Wiebe will hold swim clinics later this summer and looks forward to getting a head start on next season.
For more information, visit https://www.swimwithkim.net/ or visit Wiebe's Facebook page Swim with Kim.
"I'm going to do a clinics a couple of days a week here to keep kids going who want to keep going, especially for the kids who want to swim for the Lenoir City middle school and high school teams," Wiebe said. "They won't start that until mid-October, so we'll have some time to prepare for that. Even the little kids that want to continue through the school year, I hope to run some competitive groups through the school year at the Lenoir City pool."