A group of Muskogee High swimmers will have something to be give thanks for Thursday.
They really already have, in several meets this year.
For the first time since prior to the YMCA’s closing in 2003, MHS has a swim team.
Jazzy Dyer, Caleb Winn and Rachel Throgmorton came along to resuscitate it. For Throgmorton, it’s a senior gift of sorts.
“For me, starting this team is such an honor,” said Throgmorton, “I had no idea I’d leave a legacy like this at Muskogee High School, doing the thing I love the most in my life.”
Dyer’s father, Dorian, had been driven to leave such a legacy once his daughter neared middle school.
“It wasn’t an option to go to Fort Gibson. We wanted a program in Muskogee and everywhere we went the last few years to do that, we’d get the door slammed on us,” he said. “We just know we wanted another option for the kids in Muskogee. It builds up self-esteem and respect within the school to be a part of something.”
The crack in the door became the one belonging to Garrett Davis, the athletic director.
“When you’re battling for your kids, you kind of get impatient and I understood where (Dyer) was coming from,” he said. “We found a couple of others who were interested and I contacted the OSSAA. These three wanted to be pioneers. And we’ve got several already indicating interest at the middle school level.”
Davis leaned on Fort Gibson coach Connie Dean and Amy Cassell, the swimming representative for OSSAA, for guidance. Fort Gibson is the only school that competes in swimming.
“I had never been associated with swimming at any other school, as an athletic director or principal, so I had to research it out among those who did,” Davis said. “We’re using our activity fund for tournament entry fees,” Davis said. “We’re laying the groundwork for a booster club.”
Karen Bradley is heading that up. Her daughter, Klair, has been a nationally-competitive club swimmer.
“When you go to state meets, it’s like a community. You know each other,” Karen Bradley said. “There’s still a need for a high school connection.”
As Bradley pointed out, Missy Franklin, the Olympic champion, swam for her high school.
“Part of their choice of not going professional is so they can swim with their high school. And that community carries over,” she said. “It’s a true community at state competition where you’re friends outside the pool but once you’re in that water you’re out to beat your friends.”
Dyer, Winn and Throgmorton got involved in the Muskogee Sharks swim program and later with the Tahlequah Stingrays club team. Winn and Throgmorton compete today with a program out of Claremore and drive an hour to practice.
That is also their practice for high school meets. Dyer, meanwhile, swims with the Fort Gibson team.
Muskogee High School has no pool and up to this year, Fort Gibson was the only area school with a team.
Any of the three could have competed for Fort Gibson by transferring.
“Those are my friends at Fort Gibson, but I’ve grown up in Muskogee, it’s always been my hometown and Muskogee is what I’ve always want to represent,” said Dyer.
“I knew there was a team over there but I didn’t want to leave my high school friends,” Winn said. “My club team was my outlet so I thought just doing that would work out.”
Winn has a first-place finish this season in the 200-meter freestyle at the Fort Gibson Invitational, finishing in 2 minutes, 8.54 seconds. That was seven seconds faster than Tulsa Washingotn’s Luke James, who was second.
Dyer was third in the 50-meter freestyle at Fort Gibson, in 30.60, and dropped one second off her previous best time in the 100 free at Bartlesville, a 1:02.15. Throgmorton has been battling injury issues but was fourth behind Dyler in the 50 freestyle in 31.50.
Bradley is looking to build support. A half-dozen will add to this team next year out of the middle school. Anyone who would like to help with funding or in other ways, contact her at (918) 869-8052.
The addition of the program has also achieved something else.
“The best thing is we can now say at Muskogee High School we have an opportunity in every sport the OSSAA sanctions,” Davis said.