Swim club rivalry friendly, but intense

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Like a pack of wolves, athletes will challenge their friends in the interest of finding out who the top dog will be. At least, that’s the way it is for Tyler Williams and her friends and teammates in the Boardman swimming community.

Williams and the rest of the pack had the chance to do just that at the Clash of the Spartans — a battle between neighborhood rivals Boardman Tennis and Swim Club and the Applwood Swim Club — at the Applewood Swim and Tennis Club.

“It’s a friendly rivalry, but it’s tough, also,” Williams, a junior and member of the Boardman Tennis and Swim Club, said. “It lets us get a hierarchy with each other. You’ve got to prove yourself and you get to see who is better in the summer amongst your friends. We don’t want to beat each other to hurt each other’s feelings, but it does allow us to prove ourselves to our friends. At the end of the day, it’s a lot of fun.”

More than 200 swimmers — all friends, teammates and classmates — took part in the annual dual meet.

“The high school kids are all teammates at Boardman High School,” Applewood coach and Boardman High School coach Carlo Cordon said. “We have 35 kids swimming against each other who will all be swimming together in the winter. That doesn’t include all of the little kids who all go to school together.”

BTSC coach Chad DeAngelo, who serves as an assistant at the high school, sees exactly where the battles are drawn, then blurred or erased.

“It’s always fun to race against a friend, beat a friend,” DeAngelo said. “But it’s also very humbling to lose to a friend. The truth is, it feeds the high school program. That’s why Carlo and I have done it for so long. It benefits the high school.”

Cordon and DeAngelo face a difficult task. Putting a lineup together for the Clash forces them to look at their own swimmers as opponents.

“Putting a lineup together makes me nervous,” Cordon said. “I know their strengths. It’s a proud moment, but it’s nerve-wracking, too. It’s the battle of Boardman.”

That battle can be fun, but bragging rights are on the line, as well.

“When it gets going, it gets exciting,” BTSC’s Mackenzie Widrig said. “Swimming against your friends boosts your energy. You want to beat them. It’s a rivalry, buts it’s fun at the same time. It’s not much of a competition because we’re cheering each other on in a way.”

It doesn’t take the swimmers long to go from opposing forces to friends when a race ends.

“It’s fun for me, personally,” Sarah Murray said. “In the backstroke, I was going against one of my good friends. We were competing, but at the same time, when we got out of the pool, we hugged.”

The line isn’t always easily distinguished for the competitors, though.

“At times it’s difficult and at others, it’s more fun,” BTSC’s David Giancola said. “The summer season is more fun. The high school season is more difficult because you have expectations to do well and take things to the next level, like going to the state meet, which is what all high school swimmers are competing for. The summer is all for fun. There’s no pressure at these kinds of meets.”

The friendly rivalry works in other ways, too. Rivals during the school year become friends during the summer.

“They took me in as family when I came here,” said Applewood’s Mark Lanterman, who attends Poland High School. “I feel like we’re not football rivals. Everyone is friendly. We all get along.”

When the time comes to band together, the end result can be impressive.

“Look at the relays [for the high school team],” Cordon said. “That’s top-100 in the country. They’re all a mix of Boardman and Applewood kids. That’s the beauty of it. We need all of those pieces. They put in a lot of work with the goal of being a strong high school team.”

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