“I’ve just always been good at breaststroke,” Staton said, bouncing up and down in his red swimsuit and cap. “I’m fixing to do it right now. “
The swim meet Saturday being the first of the USA swim season, the pool at the McClellan Fitness Center was packed with hundreds of young swimmers and their families. As warm-ups ended and teams began their pre-competition cheers, throngs of people packed into the stands. The pool deck filled to standing-room only, while the gym where swimmers rested before their events was also crowded.
Barracudas Coach Kelly Roberts said the Saturday meet drew teams from around the state and Georgia, making it the biggest competition the Anniston team has hosted.
“We’ve had several meets,” Roberts said just before the national anthem signaled the meet’s start. “But this one is triple the size we normally have.”
Swim officials attribute that growth to the new pool and locker room facilities at the McClellan site, which opened in April.
Before the new aquatic and fitness center was completed, the Barracudas hosted meets at McClellan’s old Truman Gym, where the pool had only six lanes. The new facility has eight lanes plus large sliding glass doors around the pool that allow the entire space to be opened up during large meets like this one, Roberts said.
The “sprint” meet featured races of 25-, 50- and 100-yard distances for age groups ranging from 6 and under to 15 and older.
The medley relays kicked off the competition; Staton’s team swam in the second event of the meet. He and teammates Katelyn Barnett, Grace Stone and Julian Magadia managed to snag a second-place finish for the Barracudas.
Despite its large attendance, the meet started on time and stayed on track for most of the morning, the odd interruption occurring when a malfunctioning smoke detector caused the fire alarms to go off. Fitness center employees evacuated the building, but the delay only lasted about 10 minutes while firefighters made sure nothing serious was wrong.
Roberts said she loves watching the older swimmers, seeing how much they have accomplished in their months or years of practice: especially the 15- to 18-year-old boys who battle it out in the butterfly events.
“Of course, the babies are fun, too,” she said. “It’s neat to watch them come from where they really didn’t know about swimming to now.”
Star staff writer Cameron Steele: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @Csteele_star.