O’Fallon Park YMCA’s Makos swim team making a big splash in area competition.
No shark can swim quite like the Shortfin Mako Shark, known as the “fastest shark in the ocean.”
The speeds at which Makos can swim are unbelievable. Marine biologists estimate that these sharks can cruise through water at speeds of 21.75 mph (35 kph) with bursts of more than 49.71 mph (80 kph).
There are also Makos right here in St. Louis. No, not in an aquarium but at the O’Fallon Park Rec Complex YMCA. The O’Fallon Y is home to the “Makos” Swim Team, which is enjoying the thrill of victory in competitive swim meets throughout the metro area.
“The first thing the swimmers on the Makos team ask me is what was their time after finishing their laps,” said Coach Terea Goodwin. “They love it whenever they beat their personal best times.”
The team, which features boys and girls between the ages of 5-17, has competed at YMCAs in Edwardsville and Centralia in Illinois. In Missouri, meets have been held in Mexico, Louisiana, Jefferson City and St. Peter’s.
Swim meets are scheduled for July and August in the team’s home pool at O’Fallon Rec Complex. Goodwin said except for a few exceptions, the Makos regularly are the only African American swimmers in competition.
The Makos success has vaulted it to become a dual YMCA/USA competitive team which opens the swimmers up to a broader range of competition nationally, as well as more exposure to college scholarship opportunities for the older swimmers, Goodwin said.
At the recent Area Championship meet at Chuck Fruit Aquatic Center in Edwardsville, IL., the team were amazing, Goodwin said.
“We had a total of 23 swimmers qualify out of 28,” she said. “As a team at another meet, we were minimal points away from first place. We were so close.”
Goodwin was exposed to the wonders of swimming at the age of four taking swim lessons at the YMCA in Greater Kansas City. She then was introduced to competitive swimming at the age of six through the Boys & Girls Club, doing so up until graduating from high school.
The Makos are fast, talented, and outstandingly competitive swimmers.
“The thrill of racing against someone is awesome,” said Jermaine Bolden, 17, who has been swimming since age nine. He recently took first place in the backstroke in a swim meet in Mexico, MO.
“Swimming against another person is more technical, more things going on that you’re trying to accomplish underwater – your stroke, how fast you’re going, your efficiency,” Jermaine said.
Kaia Collins-Crump, 12, who started swimming two years ago, has won medals in the medley – combination of four different swimming styles— backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and freestyle —into one race and in freestyle single competition.
“It feels so good to win,” Kaia said. “It feels good when I’m in the water where I’m free, where I can just kick my legs.”
Swimming has always been the main attraction at YMCAs, both for youth and adults. The competition started 10 years ago when Goodwin, as an assistant at the O’Fallon Y, took the idea of forming a swim team from another person, jumped in the water with it, eventually becoming head coach as the swim team developed.
The team started as a recreational entity, but it was apparent the swimmers were ready for competition.
“We were not even thinking we’ll ever be competitive,” Goodwin said. “But as we kept growing, the kids kept getting stronger, faster, so we went into the competitive realm.”
Goodwin said she has had some youth in the swimming program at O’Fallon since they were three and four years old. Now that same group is in middle and high school, she added.
As the team has successes, confidence grows, and the swimmers are living up to their shark namesake – the Makos.
“For the longest time, we came in last place all the time,” Goodwin said. “In the last two years, we’ve come in second place in the regional championships. A lot of the kids got first place medals. They’ve won a lot of medals this year and last.”
Located inside O’Fallon Park right off highway 70 in St. Louis at 4343 West Florissant Avenue, the O’Fallon Park Rec Complex offers state of the art fitness equipment, indoor water park, an outdoor pool, a beautiful indoor track, child watch for while you work out, and a caring community. Gym membership includes access to amenities like our fitness center, basketball court, aquatics (including a hot tub, indoor pool, and sauna), indoor track and much more.In 2013, the O’Fallon Park Rec Complex was established in partnership with the city of St. Louis Parks & Recreation Department. For more information, call 314.932.1423. The website is O’FALLON PARK REC COMPLEX | Gateway Region YMCA (gwrymca.org).