This past weekend, the Hood River Valley Swim Team hosted the Harvest of Gold Swim Meet at the Hood River Aquatic Center.
Nearly 400 swimmers from central Oregon and the Portland metropolitan area traveled to Hood River to compete.
Participants’ age ranged from 8-18.
Hood River Valley High School’s swim team head coach Kelly Cunningham said the event aimed to provide benchmark times for the athletes.
“We host a few home meets during the course of the year so our swimmers can see where they are early in the season,” said Cunningham. “Most teams take a break early in the summer and just get started back in the end of September.”
The event also gave a chance for new swimmers to wet their feet (pun intended) in the sport, according to Cunningham.
“We had about 25 new swimmers join at the beginning of the season. We don’t necessarily expect a lot of best times,” said Cunningham. “What we’re looking for is how their strokes are, seeing how they look in the water and giving them an opportunity to race because you have to practice racing like anything else.”
Swim meet director Lisa Sandoval said that, despite the large number of participants in the event, there is a sense of camaraderie and community within the competition.
“It’s a really fun sport because there’s a huge sense of community. I work with people on the pool deck and in another two or three weeks and I’ll see a lot of the same people, so the swimmers from other teams know each other,” said Sandoval. “You’ll see fist bumps before (they) swim and they’ll be kids with two different swim caps on. That’s kind of fun seeing them making friends from other teams and other areas from the state.”
This atmosphere allows new swimmers to get adjusted to the commotion and action of a swim meet, said Sandoval. But once they get adjusted, you’ll see them look hungry and competitive, she said.
Dan Grubb came from Bend with his daughter to compete in the event.
“We were trying to build some team friendships and it was also an excuse to come and explore Hood River,” said Grubb.
“One of the things that I really love about the swim meets as a whole is the fact that — so with my daughter, she’s part of a team but yet everyone is cheering for each other even though they’re really swimming against themselves and the clock,” said Grubb. “So it has that individual piece as well as a team piece.”
Grubb said one of the things he likes about swimming is that the sport is less adversarial than others.