Fort Sill Seals
Nick Cotton does his butterfly with ferocity during the Fort Sill Seals swim team practice June 12 at Rinehart Fitness Center. Cotton is one of 25 swimmers who train hard on post in the pool and outside it to compete in the USA Swimming League.

FORT SILL, Okla.-- The Fort Sill Seals are showing others that swimming pools are not meant for lazy summer days.

"You need dedication, you need a bite. You have to fight for it, every day in practice. Every 25 meters counts," said Victoria Ward, Fort Sill Seals head coach.

The team is part of USA Swimming, the same league as Michael Phelps. The swimmers are military children ages 5 -18 years old and they practice at the Rinehart Fitness Center swimming pool.

The workouts are intense as they combine long laps and dry land drills.

"They run, they stretch, they do calisthenics, they do pushups. We have two assistant coaches and Sgt. Maj. [Martin] Roy does planks and Crossfit exercises with them. They train very hard," said Ward. "They had to work to get to that. When my high schoolers came they swam about 3,000 meters. And I was like you guys are 16, 17 years old you need to be able to do more. Within a good six weeks, they were up to 4,000 meters a practice."

While their workouts are rough, their competition is up for the challenge as a recent meet put them up against a swimmer who qualified for the Olympic trials.

"From day one when I started swimming, I wasn't sure if I wanted to stick with it because I was terrible. Everybody was faster than me, but this is still my first year swimming and I've dropped so much time. I've made state times," said Jayden Roy.

The Seals have two seasons, with only a two-week break in between. The summer season is called the long course season, where they only compete in 50-meter pools. The winter season is the short course season where they compete in 25-meter pools.

Ward herself has been swimming for more than 20 years. She came to the sport in a roundabout way, but found her place in the pool.

"I was in ballet as a little girl, and my ballet instructor saw that I had one leg shorter than the other. My orthopedic [doctor] decided ballet is not the ideal sport for me, swimming would be a lot better for my spine. At first I hated it," said Ward. "It was awful. My parents had to drag me to practice twice a week for about a year. One day it just clicked, I swam a race and didn't win, but I significantly dropped my time. From then on, I was just addicted."

Ward pushes her swimmers the same way she was pushed and she said in turn it's a very rewarding experience.

Kelsie King has been a swimmer since she was 9 years old. She has been a part of the Fort Sill Seals since the team began.

"Coach Victoria has made me a lot faster in my swimming. I love it. I can't kick, I can't run, I can't throw, so I swim. I've always loved the water," said King.

Ward said each swimmer finds something in the water for them, whether that's competition, exercise, or even relaxation.

"One kid in particular has ADD and he said to me when he's in the water he feels at peace. That gives you a lot as a coach. We're all volunteers so we take a lot from them. When they leave they write us letters and it's really touching that we've instilled something in them," said Ward.

Ward said swimming teaches them to overcome obstacles, even when they're having a bad day. She said it really is up to the individual.

"When it's you in the water there's nothing else," said Roy. "I swam for high school last year, I fell in love with it and just want to make myself better so I joined here. This is a lot harder. Coach Victoria pushes you hard. She makes you want to do better than anybody else. She knows what you're capable of and she pushes you beyond your boundaries," said Roy.

For more photos of the Fort Sill Seals visit www.flickr.com/fortsillcannoneer. For more information about the team call 442-6712/6652.

Page last updated Thu June 14th, 2012 at 00:00