“Caution Gators swimming in the area,” one of the large number of signs on the wall at the pool in Gander last weekend.
No doubt everyone knew who the GFW Gators were at the Summer Swimming Provincials.
Surrounded by caution tape, other signs made by the Gator swimmers cheered on the team with “Go Gators Go,” “Swim hard Gators,” miniature alligators to boot.
And if this didn’t get them into the mood for competition, teammates sat on the deck cheering on their fellow Gators as they competed.
So the swimmers may sound a little like Head Coach Coralee Mitchell this week, who’s voice was quite low during an interview with the Advertiser on Tuesday.
But it was all worthwhile because they accomplished their goal and came home with the Most Spirited Team banner for the second consecutive year.
“We know without the numbers it’s impossible for us to win overall because you get a point for each swimmer that you have registered and there’s teams with over 100 people on their team,” Mitchell said. “We could win everything and still probably not catch them. So we said ‘we’re just going to go for most spirited.’ We try to show good attitudes when you’re on the block and when you’re finished, congratulate and wish people luck. It’s about making friends, too.”
And the GFW Gators have friends on a number of other teams, she said.
“They talk to everybody,” Mitchell said. “It’s really nice to see the possessiveness. It’s good to be competitive because that’s what drives them to do better, but not that it takes over the sportsmanship.”
Mitchell said she would try to sit and take a break from encouraging her swimmers from the deck every now and then during the weekend.
“Our kids would be cheering and I would jump up thinking I missed one of our swimmers,” Mitchell said. “I would say ‘who do we have?’ And they would say ‘oh nobody, we’re just cheering for someone else.’”
If there weren’t any Gators in the water, they would cheer on other teams, usually the swimmers in last place, she said proudly.
“It was nice to see that,” she said.
The 27 Gators who attended the provincials were among almost 400 swimmers from 10 teams. Each swimmer could compete in three categories.
“We did fabulous,” Mitchell said. “We brought home more medals and ribbons than last year.”
Laura Griffin came home with two bronze medals after placing third in the nine-to-10 girls’ freestyle and the nine-to-10 girls’ butterfly.
In her first year on the swim team, Lexie Small placed fourth in the eight-and-under girls’ individual medley (IM) and the eight-and-under girls’ breaststroke, and sixth in the eight-and-under girls’ freestyle.
Shanlee Mitchell also took a fourth place finish in the 11-to-12 girls’ breaststroke, and placed fifth in the 11-to-12 girls IM and 11-to-12 girls’ backstroke.
Alana Byrne placed fifth in the 11-12 girl’s butterfly, Chantel Mulrooney placed sixth in the nine-to-10 girls’ backstroke, and Griffin Thorne placed sixth in the 13-to-14 girls’ freestyle.
The Gators relay teams also did fabulous, Mitchell said.
In free relay, all three teams – 10-and-under girls, 11-to-12 girls, 13-to-14 girls - placed fifth.
In the medley relay, the 13-to-14 girls placed fourth, the 11-to-12 girls placed fifth, and the 10-and-under girls placed sixth.
“We had almost 100 per cent of our swimmers beat their best times in one or more of their swims,” Mitchell said. “It was better than last year, and last year I didn’t think it could get any better. The kids were really gung-ho to try their best and just to show what they learned and get out there and swim. We did fabulously wonderful and I can’t believe it.”