Smoky Mountain Invitational makes splash in Alcoa
By Grant Ramey | (email@example.com)
It’s a summer tradition that goes back nearly four decades.
For one chaotic weekend in July, tents, swimmers, parents, coaches and volunteers cover every square inch surrounding the Springbrook Pool in Alcoa for the Smoky Mountain Invitational.
This year, the 39th edition of the annual meet, was nonetheless hectic.
After Saturday’s busy 52-event schedule was said and done, the Maryville Alcoa Flying Dolphins, the host club, was seventh among the 29-team field.
MAFD is 167 points behind sixth place Whittington Creek Swim Team (467 points) and 12 points ahead of Northside Y (288) in eighth place.
Village Green ended Saturday at No. 1 with a combined 808.5 points, 129.5 ahead of second place Knoxville Racquet Club at 679 points.
Among those running around, squirming between bodies to get to a list of things to do and places to be Saturday was Brad McBride, the SMI meet director.
“Once the meet starts it settles down for me quite a bit,” McBride told The Daily Times. “My job, well, the board’s job, it’s not just mine, start’s two months after the end of the season. We have monthly board meetings. We’re always talking about SMI and how to make it better.”
Twenty-nine teams, stretching from Rockwood to Newport, and all the places in between, made up this year’s field. The 1,500 swimmers constantly moving in and out of the pool makes the weekend meet one of the biggest in the country.
“It’s billed as the biggest outdoor swim meet in the southeast,” McBride said.
“(Saturday) we started at 8:45 (a.m.) and it will go until 8:30 (p.m.).
“(Sunday) is 10-and-under (swimmers). And they’re scheduled to start at 8:45 and they’ll go until 4:30.”
McBride, who sits on the MAFD board of directors, said the Saturday-Sunday meet is the only chance for the Dolphins to raise funds for the season and the nearly 200 swimmers that make up the club.
“Our swimmers pay their dues to Parks and Recreation,” McBride said. “We get benefits from that, obviously being able to use the pool, so we get benefits from that. But it’s our only fund raiser that we’re using to raise money for our season.
“In my opinion we run a very good meet. We have the experience, we have a lot of dedicated parents, volunteers, that we could not do without. It’s amazing how willing people are to step up and help out.”
For McBride and the board, though, it’s all about making the meet better every year.
“We’re always seeking feedback, trying to make it better, trying to improve,” McBride said.
The Dolphins swim coach, Jeff Knox, said the meet is a measuring stick for his swimmers.
“It provides swimmers who are not USA swimmers, who are not year-round swimmers, to compete against their peers like them,” Knox said. “So the kids who can only swim in the summer compete against each other.
“It really gives them a chance to get a more accurate comparison of where they are, athletically and where they compete — it’s a great opportunity for them.”
Dolphins fly high
A mix of high finishes in both individual events and relay event helped the Dolphins to the seventh place finish after the first day of the meet.
The Dolphins ‘A’ relay finished third (2:22.57) in the girls 200 yard medley relay for 24 points. The MAFD ‘B’ relay team finished 11th (1:19.66) in the same event for four points.
The Dolphins ‘A’ relay in the girls 15-18 200 yard medley finished sixth (2:11.48) for 18 points.
The boys relay teams racked up a 48 combined points with a fourth place finish in the 11-12 200 medley (2:33.54) and a second place finish in the 13-14 200 yard medley relay.
On the individual side, 12-year-old Rachel Eccles gave the Dolphins a combined 14 points after a pair of seventh place finishes in both the girls 11-12 year old 100 yard individual medley (1:22.05) and the 50 yard backstroke (37.16). Katrina Eccles, 14, finished ninth in the 13-14 year old girls 50 yard backstroke, collecting four points for the Dolphins with a time of 34.09.
On the boys side, 12-year-old Issac Keller scored a combined 21 points after a second place finish in the 11-12-year-old 50 yard freestyle (28.13) and a sixth place finish in the 50 yard backstroke (36.69).
Keller’s Dolphin teammate, Ethan Hathock, 11, finished sixth in the 50 yard freestyle (29.51) for another eight points.
Ella Evans, 12, finshed ninth in the girls 11-12 50 freestyle (31.04) for four points and Callie McCourry, 14, finished 12th in the 200 yard IM (3:14.28) for another Dolphin point.
Gabriel Sneed, 18, finished ninth in the girls 15-18 200 IM (2:42.03) for four points.
Thomas Norville, 14, finished sixth in the boys 13-14 50 yard freestyle (26.22) for eight points and Dakota Jackson, 13, finished eighth in the boys 13-14 50 yard backstroke for five points.
The Dolphins got three more points after Emma Hendrix, 12, and Ali Sherrill, 11, finshed 11th and 12th, respectively, in the 11-12-year-old 100 yard freestyle.
One team was missing Saturday from what was originally scheduled to be a 30-team field.
The Morristown Boys & Girls Club opted to not attend the meet after one of its swimmers was lost in the July 4 electrocution accident on Cherokee Lake.
“We prayed for them,” McBride said. “And we held a moment of silence for their team.”
The remaining 33 events in the 86-event meet will take place today at Springbrook, beginning at 8:45 a.m. and running until completion.
Today features ages 10-and-under in relays and individual events.