With more than 10,000 youth swimmers on 78 teams this summer, the Tarheel Swimming Association long ago outgrew any single season-ending championship meet.
These days, four meets give the recreational summer league's swimmers a chance to experience a multi-team, championship-meet atmosphere.
Although the four meets being held this weekend and next in Raleigh and Cary are conducted by Wake County club teams and not the Tarheel Swimming Association, TSA teams are the invited participants.
League president Bob Goudreau likes the arrangement.
"We are happy that these meets exist because they give swimmers an opportunity to attend a multi-team championship-style meet," Goudreau said, emphasizing that these meets do not affect the points standings or awards for the six-week league season of two-team meets at community pools in Wake County.
TSA last held an official championship meet in 1998, Goudreau said.
Since then, year-round competitive teams such as the Marlins of Raleigh and the New Wave Swim Team, have taken the lead to host TSA swimmers ranging from grade-school beginners to nationally ranked athletes.
The big-event competition starts Sunday with the fifth annual South Wake Invitational Meet, or SWIM, hosted by the Marlins of Raleigh at the Lochmere Swim and Tennis Club in Cary, and the long-held Greater Raleigh Swim Meet, hosted by the New Wave Swim Team at the Triangle Aquatics Center in Cary.
The third meet will be the 29th annual Cary City Invitational Swim Meet, hosted July 17 by one of the original participants, Scottish Hills Recreational Club.
And the fourth meet will the North Raleigh Championships, formerly the Junior Championships, hosted by the Marlins of Raleigh on July 18 at Ravenscroft School.
Coach Paul Silver's year-round club team, the Marlins of Raleigh, hosts two of the meets, and Silver has watched the meets, including the recently added SWIM, grow.
"The Cary City Meet had gotten to the point it had 1,600 kids in it. We talked with some of the teams, why don't we run another meet to take off some of the excess," Silver said.
The goal, he said, was not to infringe on the Cary meet but to provide the chance for more swimmers to compete and to prevent families from having to spend long days at a huge meet beginning in the morning and lasting well into the night.
Year-round teams such as MOR and New Wave have more expertise at running big, multi-team meets a swell, Silver said.
"I think it has worked out and given some other kids a chance to succeed," he said.
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- Teri Boggess