Blue Wave Swim Team’s Puerto Rican Meet

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Nine 7- to 13-year old children from the South Bronx members of BronxWorks’ Blue Waves swim team traveled to Puerto Rico in mid-April to compete in a meet.  They returned home after placing first in four events, second in six, and third in five.

The children competed with eight Puerto Rican swim teams at the “Amigos de Puerto Rico” swim competition hosted by San Juan’s Club Aquatico de Bayamon at the Universidad Central de Bayamon.  Some 300 children took part in the meet, held April 11th to 13th.  It was the first time the Blue Waves took part in a competition outside the continental U.S.

Duly impressed with the children’s accomplishments, a reporter and photographer from the New York Times paid a visit to interview Eileen and some of the children for a story that will appear soon.

“It was a fantastic trip and I’m very proud of these kids,” said Eileen Towey, BronxWorks aquatics director.  “What’s particularly significant is that the Blue Waves was started only two years ago and team members included children who never know how to swim who quickly moving on to the Blue Waves after taking beginner’s classes with me.

Ms. Towey, who organized the Blue Waves swim team in November 2012, pointed out that the trip to Puerto Rico was self-financed.  The team held bake sales, a “Swim-a-thon” and sold chocolate bars to raise traveling expenses, with parents helping out.  

Early on, Blue Waves swimmers took second- and third-place wins in various competitions here. In the 12-team Metro League Championships last March, Blue Waves competitors finished strong, with six first-place, eight second-place and seven third-place wins.  These are significant accomplishments for youngsters who were mostly non-swimmers before the BronxWorks aquatics program started up.

Overall, Ms. Towey estimates that at least 200 children from BronxWorks’ after-school and summer camp programs have learned to swim since she organized the aquatics program in 2013 at the Carolyn McLaughlin Community Center at 1130 Grand Concourse.  The pool there is one of only four year-around pools in the South Bronx, an area with more people than the cities of Cleveland, Minneapolis, or Miami.

In addition to being fun, learning how to swim has greatly increased confidence and high spirits among the children, Ms. Towey said.  Being at home in water also translates into safety.  The youngsters are ecstatic when they win medals in Blue Waves competitions, she said.  

Significantly, 70% of African-American children and 60% of Latino children nationwide do not know how to swim, according to the National Swimming Pool Foundation, largely because they have little access to pools, beaches, as well as instructors like Ms. Towey and the aquatics staff at the BronxWorks Carolyn McLaughlin Community Center.  

Ms. Towey noted that the Blue Waves will also be traveling out of town for the 12th Annual National Black Heritage Swim Competition at the Triangle Aquatic Center in Cary, North Carolina, May 24th and 25th.

Here are individual finishers from the Blue Waves at the Puerto Rico event:

  • Jordyn Carela, age 10, 3rd place, 9-10 age group Girls 50-Meter Butterfly
  • Bianca Del Valle, 12, 3rd place, 11-12 Girls 100-Meter Backstroke
  • Sanjiv Dilchand, 9, 2nd place, 9-10 Boys 100-Meter Individual Medley, 3rd place, 9-10 Boys 50-Meter Backstroke, 3rd place, 9-10 Boys 50-Meter Butterfly
  • Sean Dilchand, 13, 3rd place, 13-14 Boys 200-Meter Individual Medley
  • Joseph Elias, 10, 1st place, 9-10 Boys 100-Meter Individual Medley, 2nd place, 9-10 Boys 50-Meter Freestyle, 2nd place, 9-10 Boys 100-Meter Freestyle, 2nd place, Boys 50-Meter Butterfly
  • Nicole Gomez, 11, 1st place, 11-12 Girls 100-Meter Individual Medley, 1st place, 11-12 Girls 50-Meter Freestyle, 2nd place, 11-12 Girls 100-Meter Freestyle
  • Sasha Hutto, 10, 2nd place, 9-10 Girls 50-Meter Butterfly
  • Machia Jackson, 1st place, 8-and-under Girls 50-Meter Butterfly, 2nd place, 8-and-under Girls 100-Meter Individual Medley
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