Stroke of Genius:Charlestown Swim Team Surging Amidst Long History

Aside from hockey, there aren’t too many youth sports in Charlestown that can trace their roots back to the 1930s, but that is the case for the Charlestown Swim Team, which is once again collecting trophies and accolades on its way to the national meet this spring.

Swimmers Eliza Nilson, Victoria Taieb and Molly McGuiness have wrapped up another successful season on the Charlestown Swim Team this year and are headed once again to the national tournament in Florida this April. The team has roots in the Town going back to the 1930s. Now, success is smiling
once again on the swimmers.

Based in the Charlestown Boys & Girls Club on High Street, the team is open to members of the Club ages 6-18, and a recent surge of talent and alums returning to coach has put the program back on the map.

Coach Quinlan Locke said the team has just finished its regular season (running from September to January) and the sectional tournament late last month.

Now, he said, they have 10 swimmers that have qualified to attend the national meet that they will attend in April.

“We have about 60 on the roster and most are 14 and younger,” said Locke, who attended the Club as a child. “We are open for practice four nights a week. and they usually come two nights. A big part of our team have been the relays. We’ve been setting team records and they have been big for us over the last three years. We have 10 girls this year going to the nationals in Florida, five that have been before and five new competitors. They have definitely earned it. They work hard every time they come in here. It’s been so great for us to see how an individual sport can be a great way to build the team concept.”

The team consists of several young ladies and young men (though they are now trying to bring in more boys to the team again) that often have younger siblings or relatives on the team. Added to that is the fact that many on the team have parents who swam on the Charlestown team or are avid swimmers as adults.

“All of my family swims and I enjoy it a lot too,” said Molly McGuiness, 13, who will be going to nationals in April for the second time. “I enjoy competing and I enjoy winning. I started on the team when I was in second grade, and while I play other sports, I try to really focus on swimming.”

Swimmer Eliza Nilson said swimming has been something she found, not knowing she had a talent for it until she started competing.

“I was born in Charlestown and moved to Canada and then moved back here, but while I was in Canada I started swimming and had a coach who said I should compete,” she said, also noting that she is headed to the nationals for the second time. “In Charlestown, I got on swim team and found something I really loved doing. I didn’t really know I was good at swimming, but when I started working at it, I found out I was really good.”

Added Victoria Taieb, 15, “My mom basically put me in every sport and swimming was the only thing that stuck. I loved it.”

That said, it’s not just the current swimmers that enjoy the local team, but volunteer coaches who come back to help. With the team having roots stretching to the early 1930s at the Club, there are a wealth of good swimmers who are excited to give back.

This year, former swimmers Jesse MacDonald and Stephanie Ward-McIsaac have volunteered to help out Locke. Meanwhile, former swim team member Colby Cahill is also coaching the team. All three have strong roots on the team having also been members when they were younger.

“I always felt so comfortable and safe here when I was younger,” said Ward-McIsaac. “I was such a great experience for me. The decision to come back and volunteer to help was really about giving back.”

Cahill was the first Charlestown swimmer to make the nationals a few years back when she was on the team. Now, as coach, she can understand the view from inside and outside the pool.

“I see both sides of it,” she said. “I hear them say certain things during practice and remember that not too long ago I said those same things.”

MacDonald grew up swimming on the team at the Community Center, long before the new pool on High Street existed. Still, he said he had great memories of his time at the Club and on the swim team. For the past several years, he has volunteered to help coach.

“I pretty much grew up with the pool,” he said. “I think it’s so great that three of the coaches for the team were former members of the team. I think that says a lot about the experience we all had, and the experience we hope these kids are having.”Locke said the team is taking donations to help with costs associated with the trip to Florida. Anyone who would like to donate can direct those resources to the Charlestown Boys & Girls Club.

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