While it is special, every year the Berea Dolphins begin their season, the start of the 2019 campaign was extra special as it marked the 50th anniversary of the team.
The kickoff of the season began on June 3 when the past met the present during the annual Dolphins Blue and White meet that featured current and alumni swimmers.
The event offered a chance for Melanie Turner and Stacy Barnett to reminisce a little on their swimming careers, which span from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s. During their final year on the team in 1986, the duo was part of the relay team that finished third in the state in the four-by medley.
Being a part of the swim team fulfilled two desires, Barnett said.
“I was looking for something where I could be part of a team, and I love the water,” she said. “It allowed me to be a part of a team. The relationships that I gained are wonderful. The friendships I had back then are still with me today.”
“It was the only competitive sport where kids ages 4 to 18 were together,” she said. “So there was lots of mentoring, and it was a great experience for the little kids.”
Turner served as board president for 10 years, and what has impressed her the most is parent involvement and the positive nature of the team.
“Parents are involved in everything, and they have to be to put on a meet season,” she said. “The legacy is the positivity. When I was president, we, the board, repeatedly heard how positive the sport was – from parent involvement to the interaction among the kids.”
A prime example of the positivity, Barnett said, was watching current team members cheer one another one during an event.
“A little while ago, we had a young swimmer who was out there alone and trying the finish (during the Blue and White meet),” Barnett said.
“The whole team was encouraging her to finish. That is what you have here.”
The team is made up of nearly 100 swimmers, which is the cap, current president Sandy Briggs said.
It competes in the 15-team Bluegrass Swim Conference.
Since the team was founded in 1969, it has seen many changes. Initially, it swam at the old Seabury Gym on Berea College’s campus.
Now, the swimming action takes place at the Berea City Pool.
This year, the city of Berea purchased touchpads for the team, which makes keeping track of times much more manageable.
“They’re electronic timing machines, which makes it simpler and more efficient and accurate,” Turner said.
The program also serves as a feeder program to both Berea Community and Madison Southern high schools.
For 50 years, former Berea swimmers have gone on to earn college scholarships in swimming.
“My son started with the Berea Dolphins when he was 7,” Turner said. “Then he swam for Madison Southern, and now he’s on a swimming scholarship to Florida Atlantic University. We have a lot of kids like that.”
Moving forward, Turner likes the direction the team is going.
“I hope it stays the same,” she said. “Modernizing it is wonderful, but having the attitudes and positive teaching; I hope it never changes.”
The Dolphins will host the conference swim meet at Berea Community Pool on Monday.