NEW ULM - For nearly 30 years, the New Ulm Swim Club has been place for New Ulm area children to try something different.
New Ulm doesn't have a high school swim team so for athletes that want to participate in the sport it's their only option.
And since 1982, children have been using the swim club as a compliment to other sports like football, soccer or track and an alternate to other sports the area high schools have to offer.
New Ulm Swim Club members from left: Zach holmquist, Bryan Dewanz, Brendan O’Brian and Mason Iles.
Instructor and Martin Luther College Student Hannah Saidler works with Leah Schmitt and Abigail Allen (foreground).
New Ulm swim club members pictured front row from left: Leah Schmitt, Brendan O’Brien, Abigail Allenand Mason Iles. Back row: Zach Holmquist and Bryan Dewanz.
"Swimming is a life-long sport," club president Christie Dewanz said. "You can swim until you are 100, it's low impact and it is so good physically for you. Unfortunately in New Ulm we don't have a high school program. Most club programs are feeder programs for the high school.
"That is one drawback but it's also great conditioning. Bryan [DeWanz] plays football and he runs track so the three really compliment each other. We have some kids that use it as conditioning for soccer."
"I just like the fact that it's a great exercise," swimmer Zach Holmquist said. "You work out so many muscles you don't use in other sports."
If you go
What: New Ulm Swim Club Registration
Where: Christ The King
When: Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m.
Tiny: Ages 5-7 the season runs from Nov. 2 to Feb. 25. The group is for beginning swimmers with the emphasis on basic swimming skills and stroke instruction. The practices are two days a week Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday from 3:30 to 4:45 p.m. The cost is $150 plus a $54 MSI fee.
Junior: Ages 8-12 the season runs from Oct. 12 to Feb. 25. The group is for novice swimmers with emphasis on further stroke development and technique. The practices run from Monday through Friday from 3:30 to 5 p.m. The cost is $200 plus a $54 MSI fee.
Senior: Ages 13-18. the season runs from Oct. 12 to Feb. 25. The group further defines stroke mechanics and technique and introduction and use of training skills and endurance building. The practices run Monday through Friday from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Cost is $200 plus $54 MSI fee.
Children join the club for different reasons. Bryan Dewanz started swimming because his older brother did it and he wanted to see if he liked it. He did, now he doesn't to condition for his other sports.
"Swimming builds up your endurance so you can run longer in football and track," he said. "You can run longer than other people and you don't get tired as fast. "
The New Ulm Swim Club has two sessions. The recently completed summer session runs from the end of May to the end of July.
The summer session is less intensive, only practicing twice a week and there are usually less swimmers involved in the summer group.
The fall/winter session tends to have more participants and is a longer season. It runs from October to March and the the club will be holding their registration Tuesday at Christ the King Church in New Ulm.
The club is broken down into three age groups: Tiny - ages 5 to 7, which runs from Nov. 2 through Feb. 25. This age group will practice two days a week from 3:30 to 4:45 p.m. The Junior - ages 8 to 12 runs Oct. 12 to Feb 25 and the Senior - ages 13 to 18 runs Oct. 12 to Feb. 25. Both the Junior and Senior groups run Monday through Thursday from 3:30 to 5 p.m., all pracitces are at Vogel Arena in New Ulm.
"The very littlest of the kids are working on putting their face in the water and breathing and freestyle and backstroke and technique," said coach Eileen Bierk, who is entering her 16th year with the club. "Until they get able to swim there and back in the pool, once they get through that endurance level they move to the next group and they get help on the other strokes. It takes a long time to get all of the techniques."
Bierk says that one of the best things about coaching the club is seeing the Tinys get started.
"That's the most exciting seeing the young kids on the blocks," she said. "Sometimes they are crying and nervous and not sure if they want to do it. Then at the end of the race they are smiling and happy and sometimes they get a ribbon. They have established a time to beat. They aren't swimming against each other as much as they are swimming against themselves and trying to improve their time for the future."
The goal Bierk has for each swimmer at each level is to improve.
"Ultimatley with each age group the goal is to eventually master the stroke and techniques and to swim competitivley," she said. "We want them to want to swim competitively and master the stroke. The goal is the same in each level but they just increase the intensity as they age up."
Bierk is assisted by four other coaches. Brooklyn Fitzle and Whitney Mielke work with the youngest swimmers. Hannah Saidler works with the next group and Evan Chartrand works with the oldest swimmers.
The club picks one meet per month in the competitive season. That's the meet the kids go to. But the swimmers aren't limited to just that meet, if they need to make time in an event they can got to another meet that month individually as well.
Most of the meets are in the metro but they also travel to Marshall, Alexandria and Rochester. They also have meets in Hutchinson and Mankato.
The nice thing about the swim club is that the children are always grouped with others with similar ability.
The meets are also broken down by age and the age brackets are 8 and under, 9 and 10, 11 and 12, 13 and 14, 15 and 16 ,17 and up.
"You do swim with kids your age and your ability," Bierk said. "That way they aren't swimming with the fastest kid in the state next to them. It's all regulated by similar times that's varied by tenths of a second. That's nice so they aren't overwellmed and underwellmed and have similar competive kids with them always.
"Even if they have never swam that race they are also with kids that have probably never swam that race."
The first meet is in Nov. 7 and 8 in Farmington. Most of the meets are Saturday and Sunday and the younger kids swim in the morning and the older kids in the afternoon.
The swim club is always looking for new members and all ability levels are welcome.
"For people that want to join, you don't need to know how to swim," Bryan Dewanz said. "You can learn how to swim here. If you know how to swim well, you can go in the faster groups. Fast or slow there is a place for you in the club."