The Horizon High School girls swim team made school history last week after claiming the school’s third district championship title and earning a spot at the regional meet Friday, Oct. 28.
“I’m grateful that these kids took a chance and were willing to try to learn from someone that they didn’t really know and that really didn’t know them,” head swim coach Rachel Barkowitz said. “I think the thing I’m most proud about is the fact that these kids have made it work. They’ve risen to every occasion. They have worked their butts off, and they persevered.”
Part of the success behind the Hawks’ season comes in the development of well-rounded athletes and individuals. This year, the program introduced to its athletes the ‘Hawk of Ages,’ where athletes who competed the four strokes during their season would have the opportunity to write their name on the list record book and have a patch to put on their long-sleeved jacket.
Overall, out of the 31 athletes who the team has this year in both, the girls and boys teams, 18 swam all four strokes.
“We worked really hard this season to try to make our swimmers well-rounded,” Barkowitz said. “It goes to show not only how much effort they’ve put in this season but that they are interested in (the sport) and in … becoming better swimmers and athletes, in general.”
The girls have bought into the program Barkowitz has developed in the last 18 months, and she couldn’t be prouder of the growth she has seen in them.
“I think that is the most important thing to me,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong — winning is pretty cool, and I’m very proud of the kids. But, I think that the thing that’s most important to me is developing a program in which our swimmers are proud to be in. We’re more than just winning. I want them to be the best losers in the world and to focus on their own individual strength. Even if they are not placing first, I want them to celebrate every single millisecond off, every single opportunity they get to challenge themselves to be better swimmers and better people.
“I would rather we have a team that is strong mentally and emotionally as well as physically than just have a team that’s strong physically and not putting all the extra work to make sure we have well-rounded people,” Barkowitz said.
The team practices at 5:15 a.m. Mondays through Fridays — another testament to the dedication required.
There is one thing that has become characteristic of the Horizon Hawks swimmers this season, and that is their well-developed sportsmanship. During every meet, attendees could see Hawks wearing their purple caps cheering on their competitors, counting their 500s and giving high-fives to everyone they encountered along their way in the pool.
“Something that’s important to me is reminding these kids that it doesn’t matter what cap we use or what school we are swimming for, we are pushing each other to be better,” Barkowitz said.