A Dolphin Tale

We recently published an article highlighting MaiMai, a swimmer who inspires us.   We want to take a moment now to talk about a team that inspires us, the Upper County Dolphins.  Since 1999, Upper County has competed in Division A for all but the four years they spent in Division B.  The Dolphins have done well as a team (e.g., they won the league title in 2013) and their swimmers also have done well individually, competing and winning events at Coaches Long Course and All-Stars.  They also have been notorious for having some lightning fast relays.

Upper County is one of seven outdoor pools run by the Montgomery County Recreation Department (MCRD) and includes an eight lane, 25-meter Main Pool that many consider one of the “fastest” (i.e., deepest) in MCSL, along with two one-meter diving boards, a separate shallow water leisure pool with a water slide, a Tot Pool, snack bar, bathhouse and lawn areas.  Although the UC pool is located in what most would consider “mid-county,” its convenient location and low cost made it an attractive alternative for those who could not or chose not to join their local neighborhood team.  Neighborhood pools often charge a fee to join the pool as well as the team (and have waiting lists to boot).  At public pools like Upper County, however, swimmers just pay a registration fee to the County (and sometimes a nominal fee to the team to cover expenses that the County doesn’t cover, like trophies, starter equipment, software, etc.) and these pools generally don’t have waiting lists.img_4486

One thing community and county/city pools have in common is there is an inevitable ebb and flow in registrations.  People change teams for many reasons.  Some move to different areas, new teams join MCSL (e.g., Clarksburg has added two in recent years), coaching staffs change and even club affiliations drive the decision for families as to where they swim.  No one understands that more than the swimmers at Upper County.  A few years ago, their team had about 120 participants. In 2015, registration at Upper County dropped to 85.  Despite the drop in registration, they were able to maintain their competitive edge and came in 3rd overall in the division.

For the 2016 season, the team’s registration dipped to 35 swimmers – an almost unheard of low in any division, most certainly a team in Division A.  Most of the swimmers that remained had never participated in an A meet.  It’s easy to feel sorry for the team – it was clear at the onset of the season this team didn’t have a chance in Division A.  With 35 swimmers it is all but impossible to even fill a roster for an A meet.

But here’s the thing…they don’t want you to feel sorry for them.  Having seen them in action at a dual meet and again at the relay carnival, this team has more more spirit and heart than teams four times their size.  They run empty lanes, sometimes entire age groups go unfilled.  Knowing that a loss is all but inevitable, they show up and swim as hard and as well as they can.  They achieve personal bests, accomplish things they didn’t think possible and most importantly – they smile and laugh.  They are having fun.

uc stone
Upper County DJ rumored to be the best in the land Photo Courtesy of Charon Wallace

In talking to Peter Nachod, the A Rep for Germantown, we learned that he had reached out to them and offered to fill any volunteer positions they could not fill.  Much to his surprise, they didn’t need help, their positions were filled. Parents who no longer have kids on the team woke up on Saturday and made the drive to Germantown to help run the meet. A parent from Stonegate also couldn’t help but talk about the Dolphins.  She said their A meet at Upper County was so much fun – the announcer was great and they played great music.  She felt like she was at a party hosted by UC!

Nancy Nickerson (a long time Dolphin parent) and her son Chris Nickerson (an assistant coach for UC) also shared with us that Tilden Woods reached out to them prior to their meet and offered to do a joint theme to help bring team spirit.  UC declined – they had already planned out their spirit wear but appreciated the efforts by TW to make them feel welcome.  Watching Jacob Ado, the head coach for UC, along with his assistant coaches cheer and coach his team at the dual meets and relay carnival, one would have thought the division championship was all but won for the team.  It’s very clear he is proud of his team.img_4484

Swimming is a grueling sport for swimmers, coaches and parents.  It’s exhausting even when you are winning.  It is great to win the division trophy at the end of each season, but we also forget that earning the respect of your competitors is a far bigger prize.  Congratulations Upper County.  We applaud you for not giving up.  And thank you for reminding all of us that summer swim is about having fun.  Upper County isn’t giving up.  They know it is inevitable that they will drop many divisions and will spend the next several years rebuilding.  They are up for the challenge.  We wish them the very best and will continue to root for them.

Please email us your stories of inspiration, a team, swimmer, coach, parent or anyone else.  Contact@reachforthewall.com

If you are interested in more of the history of MCSL division winners, check out “Recovering MCSL’s Lost History.”

27 thoughts on “A Dolphin Tale

  • Jul 14, 2016 at 11:29 am
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    I would tend to disagree, they have stolen a spot in division A from great teams like country glen and Bethesda, as a results this stole a spot in B also forcing an elite Cedarbrook team Into a weak division C. This is just another problem with public pools and why they shouldn’t be included in mcsl. Also it is ridiculous that UC swimmers were allowed to transfer to rockville which could potentially cost Stonegate, the best neighborhood pool and best coached team in mcsl from obtaining a division A title.

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    • Jul 14, 2016 at 11:50 am
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      RFTW isn’t in the position to determine which division a team belongs in. This article doesn’t attempt to address that – we simply wanted to give them the credit they deserve for swimming with heart.

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    • Jul 14, 2016 at 12:10 pm
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      “Stole” a spot in A Division? That team has earned their spot year after year after year in A Division by winning Meets. They will drop out of A Division this summer, but will rebuild, get faster and will one day be back in A Division! “Public Pools” not only belong in MCSL, but continue to thrive and produce great swimmers year after year.

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    • Jul 14, 2016 at 12:32 pm
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      How did they steal a spot??? Rankings are based on the previous season performance… it was earned! If you have a problem with the rankings, contact MCSL.

      Do you know how many swimmers ‘actually’ went to Rockville??? Or are you just continuing to spread the rumor that “they all went to Rockville”?!?

      So although Bethesda is a public pool, in your opinion it’s ok for them to be in Division A since they are “a great deserving team”!?!

      Your post seems to be more about competitive greed than taking a moment to commend extraordinary efforts in a time of adversity. Shame on you.

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    • Jul 14, 2016 at 7:42 pm
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      You know what they say…haters gonna hate hate hate -Taylor Swift. Upper County deserves to be in A division. From winning the division 3 years ago, to falling to the bottom, Upper County has shown to be one of the best teams the county has ever seen. Sure, we will drop several divisions at the end of the season, but we will rise from the ashes and fight our way back into Division A, something that Upper County deserves to be in. We never “stole” anything; we just showed more heart than any other team in the county, which means that we have the right to be in this division.

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    • Jul 15, 2016 at 6:17 pm
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      What an ignorant and disgusting post. Division assignments are based on the previous year’s performance. My family belongs to one of those “elite” lower county pools. Our family has had a wonderful time travelling to the “public” pools and hosting public “pools” for competitive meets. And those public pools have had loads of excellent swimmers, many of them with parents who could not afford to join a private club. I suggest that you join the country club league, or take up polo.

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  • Jul 14, 2016 at 12:20 pm
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    UC swimmers also moved to Bethesda.

    People always have compassion for the weak. Swimmers left UC for a reason.

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  • Jul 14, 2016 at 2:02 pm
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    I agree with you Nancy! This team has earned this spot from last years efforts not by joining the league this year. Nothing was “stolen” from anyone. Just a hating troller passing by, can’t cant even fake a name (jfidkd), give me a break.

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  • Jul 14, 2016 at 3:25 pm
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    SwimDad, so… how many went to Bethesda??? Don’t imply many because it’s not true. If you know, it doesn’t help your point. If you don’t know, well, you don’t know!

    This article highlights STRENGTH not weakness. Your negativity is useless.

    It’s SO easy to be a hater behind virtual walls, but it’s SO hard to have character and integrity in a world today that rarely rewards it. Bravo to RFTW for highlighting and recognizing this team today!

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  • Jul 14, 2016 at 5:24 pm
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    6-7 transfers to rockville but none to bethesda that I can see.
    Congrats to Jen Taylor on a great career at UC.

    GO Stonegate Beat Rockville

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    • Jul 14, 2016 at 5:53 pm
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      TW Dolphin, Check Jason Liu. Do your homework first. Rockville beat you badly and now you want Stonegate retaliate for you? LOL.

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  • Jul 14, 2016 at 6:53 pm
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    Great article! It is unfortunate that many swimmers decided to leave UC. But, we can not mourn over lost swimmers. It does not matter the reason why they left or where they joined. Each family decide for their own reasons.

    My kids joined last year, and it has been wonderful. We will not think about leaving UC. UC has great coaches, and all the cheers from all parents have been really encouraging. My kids have improved greatly this summer, and making their personal best records. Swimmers flourish in a good, encouraging environment.

    I do think that UC has a great spirit, which is admired by others, and I really hope that we will not be discouraged of this difficult phase, and keep on moving forward to build a strong team.

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  • Jul 14, 2016 at 7:05 pm
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    Hi Swimdad, since you seem to have a handle on where all the Upper County kids went, how about you cut to the chase and tell us how many each MCSL team got from them?

    I loved the article and it is spot on. We had the honor of swimming against them this year and they were the loudest in spirit/cheer and swam with the most heart out of anyone we’ve competed in the pool against this year. Thank you RFTW for pointing out what summer swim really should be about! This isn’t about Rockville, or Stonegate, or the swimmers who don’t have the heart (or loyalty) to stay behind. This is about a great bunch of swimmers who get it! I give them all the kudos in the world! I think they get it more than most of those on this board!

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  • Jul 14, 2016 at 8:24 pm
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    Sounds like a good pool. We may look into joining UC for next year.

    TorpedoSwimmer, I am not Swimdad, but to answer your question, here is the breakdown:

    NO – 2
    HA – 1
    PG – 1
    BE – 1
    TH – 1
    RV – 1
    QV – 1
    EG – 1
    LM – 1

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  • Jul 14, 2016 at 9:30 pm
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    They lost more than 10 swimmers. According to the article they lost 50 in a year and 85 total.

    It would make an interesting article to know why THAT happened.

    Per a previous comment, I wouldn’t accuse the swimmers who left of having loyalty issues. These are kids.. that’s a little harsh.

    As for the kids who still swim for UC. Hang in there! Climbing back up the MCSL ladder can be as or more rewarding than staying on top.

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    • Jul 15, 2016 at 2:00 pm
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      We did lose more than 10 swimmers for many different reasons this year. A long time coach retired, some of our (who would be our) now seniors are actively practicing for their upcoming colleges. We wish them great success. Several friends went to Rockville because their club team friends are there. It doesn’t matter why swimmers left. We are in a rebuilding phase of our team, every team has ebbs and flows. The article is about the current team, swimmer, coaches and parents and their passion for keeping spirit alive in a time our Country needs to involve children in fun and not the daily news. They have character and integrity. I consider them to be the bravest, happiest team, and my own family in MCSL. We will welcome with open arms, new and returning swimmers again next summer and make it a summer the kids don’t forget. We ARE UCD Family!

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      • Jul 19, 2016 at 7:50 pm
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        If the swimmers left for the reasons set forth above, can someone please tell me why Stonegate is alleging that Rockville recruited the UC swimmers who went there?

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        • Jul 19, 2016 at 9:53 pm
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          I have not heard anything about recruiting.

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          • Jul 19, 2016 at 10:23 pm
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            It’s my understanding that Stonegate has accused Rockville of this and is trying to get the other teams in Division A to back them up.

          • Jul 20, 2016 at 1:30 pm
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            It was the families decisions for whatever reason. I didn’t hear of any recruiting. UC is rebuilding, the team will be bigger, better, stronger and have more spirit than this season!

  • Jul 14, 2016 at 10:27 pm
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    Well the article didn’t tell you who swim A or B or pre team. My data only have all A meet swimmers from mcsl.org. I compared all last year to this year.

    But it is possible my query is not correct. I spot checked few and they looked correct. the number does look small.

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  • Jul 15, 2016 at 4:23 am
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    Love this article! Happy that UC can still be so positive after what happened. To the kids still on UC- great job. I applaud UC for their team spirit. Something I’ve noticed is public pool teams have zero spirt and don’t cheer ever.(RV&BE) More about individual times than anything BUT thats not what mcsl is about…so sad. Only thing that I disagree with(not UC’s fault) is that they did steal spots from amazing teams like Country Glen and Bethesda who would beat teams in division A like tilden woods or Germantown.

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    • Jul 15, 2016 at 1:47 pm
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      Let’s not be disingenuous. If you’ve spent any time outside of your division, you’d see that the minimal team spirit is not endemic to just public pool teams, and are certainly not limited to any particular division. And while team spirit is great, it is not mentioned anywhere in the MSCL handbook, whereas individual performances are mentioned several times (Individual All-Stars & Coaches Invitational). Kids should be allowed to engage in healthy activities however they see fit, as long as their behavior is courteous to those around them. Not everyone’s an extrovert, nor should they be forced to be.

      UC didn’t steal their spot from anybody; they finished 3rd last year in Div A and earned it. Your divisional placement for any year is based on the previous year’s performance. There are teams in Div C that can beat teams in Div B, and likewise there are teams in Div D that can beat teams in Div C. That’s why many teams get reassigned after each season. Don’t like how that works, then take it up with MCSL, but let’s not go around accusing UC of theft.

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  • Jul 15, 2016 at 3:27 pm
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    UC suddenly became a role model after it lost 50 swimmers (from 85 to 35 based on this article) at the same time. This is something I do not understand.

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  • Jul 24, 2016 at 9:35 pm
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    Dear Upper County Dolphins,
    Welcome! We know that your time in Division O will be short, but we hope you have a great time while you are here. The lower MCSL divisions may not have many all-stars, but all of the kids get to participate and all have the opportunity to succeed. Slow times, big smiles! See you next season. Sincerely, the Twinbrook Ducks.

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    • Jul 25, 2016 at 2:21 am
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      Thank you, Twinbrook! We are looking forward to making new friends and continuing to have fun in the spirit of summer swimming! We look forward to next season which will be new and exciting.

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  • Jul 27, 2016 at 4:07 pm
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    Ok, I finally had time to fix my original query.

    So looking at A meets only, looks like UC lost 17 swimmers. They may have lost more but my data only has A meets.

    RV did get the most, but it’s not the only club with 3 UC swimmers. LV and NO are the others.

    UC A meet swimmers go down from 70 (2014) to 67 (2015) and 33 this year.

    Here are the breakdown of the migration:

    LM – 3
    RV – 3
    NO -3
    HA -2
    EG -1
    RS -1
    BE -1
    TH -1
    PGL -1
    QV -1

    Reply

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