By Tina Ray/ParaglideSeptember 9, 2011
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Gunnar Thibodeau has been swimming since he was six months old and at 7, he is currently one of the youngest members of the Fort Bragg Fighting Fish Swim Team.
The team, according to its website, is a year-round competitive swim team that offers instruction for all ages and abilities.
Oscar Roverato, a member of the American Swim Coaches Association, founded Fort Bragg Fighting Fish in March 2010.
The team comprised of about 90 members, ranging from Gunnar's age up to age 17, Roverato said.
"We have any level swimmer here," he said. "Some are ranked in the top 10 in the state."
Instruction is given based on the skill level of the swimmer, Roverato added. Practices are held Mondays to Saturdays at Atchley Outdoor Pool behind Airborne Lanes on Ardennes Street. During fall and winter months, practice will move to an indoor pool.
Because Gunnar had participated in swim camps from levels one to four, sometimes twice, then becoming a member of the Fighting Fish Swim Team seemed a "logical step," said his father, Chad Thibodeau.
"He's already a better swimmer than his parents are, at least technically anyway," he said.
What does Gunnar enjoy most about swimming?
"I get to meet new friends and I get to be in the water almost every day of the week," said Gunnar, who favors the breaststroke for its technique.
When Trent Tursich, 16, recently moved with his Family from Georgia, one of the first things on his agenda was finding a swim team. He has been on the team for about three months, and said he enjoys attending practice.
"It provides a daily challenge -- something that keeps my mind off school and the daily hardships of being a military child," Tursich said.
Through practice, he has perfected each of his swim strokes and improved his breathing, he added.
Layne Thornton, 17, swims the 100 and 200-meter breaststroke in 1:09 and 2:34 respectively, she said.
As a four-year team member, Thornton said she loves the diversity represented on the team because swimmers are part of a military community and ultimately, its own Family.
"I never get sick of them and I'm around them all the time," she said.
Thornton said she also enjoys being coached by Roverato.
"He's an amazing coach. He looks at everybody and he helps everybody. He doesn't just focus on one swimmer," said Thornton.
For Gunnar, the reason is a little simpler.
"I think he's a very good coach because he's a nice man," he said.
"This team is more of a Family than anything," said Tursich.
For more information about Fort Bragg Fighting Fish, visit http://www.fortbraggswimteam.com/Home.jsp?team=ncsfff.