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October 16, 2002

Swimming: Estero touches out Cypress Lake, Lely

From: Bonita Daily News, FL
Oct. 16, 2002

By WILL GRAVES, Sports Editor

When she's in the swimming pool, Estero High junior Alex Kubic is deaf, dumb and mostly blind. She can't hear anything, the roar of the crowd drowned out by the churning of her arms and legs from one side of the pool to the next and her own inner voice reminding her to breathe.

Of course, that doesn't stop the gaggle of friends, family, teammates and coaches from yelling at her. Every single inch of every single lap, somebody is telling her to go.

"I can't hear anything they say," Kubic said. "I don't really see anything either. It's just what they do."

Kubic knows they know she can't hear them. But she also knows it's their way of feeling connected to her, their way of helping, even if she has no idea what they're saying.

Every once in awhile she'll peek over at her opponent, just to see where she is. And maybe once or twice a meet she'll get a glimpse at Estero swimming coach Jary McGarity, his arms raised high over his head. McGarity, a former swimmer, said it's just his way of telling her to reach.

"I just try to catch everybody's eye while they're going," McGarity said. "I'm just trying to remind them to finish their stroke and reach for the wall."

Lately, the Wildcats have been reaching the wall first with regularity. Though they lack the numbers of some of their opponents, many of whom bring 30-40 swimmers (or more) to a meet while they have just 15-18, the Wildcats are proving their lack of quantity doesn't mean a lack of quality.

"The girls are swimming really well," McGarity said. "They're just trying to go out there and swim their best. They know even if they don't get first, just by placing they get points for us."

Those points have been showing up at just the right time. In the team's final home meet of the season last week against Cypress Lake and Lely at the Bonita Recreation Center, the Wildcats secured their fourth win of the season with a thrilling finish in the 400-meter freestyle relay, as the team of Kubic, Crystal Allen, Jackie Erickson and Ashley Hill rolled to victory.

"I knew it was going to be pretty tight," McGarity said. "The girls just went out and did their thing."

Erickson, Kubic and Allen provided Hill with plenty of cushion, and she finished off the Trojans with a solid final 50 to give the Wildcats a finishing time of 4 minutes 9.24 seconds.

"I wasn't supposed to look (at the Lely girl in the next lane) but I just wanted to see where she was," Hill said. "I just wanted to see if I won. She was pushing me pretty hard."

The 400-free relay is probably the team's strongest event, and to keep the girls fresh, sometimes McGarity will switch up the order. Everyone gets a chance to be the anchor, which isn't always a good thing, Hill said.

"If we have a lead, I love to go last, but if we're not, then I don't because there's too much pressure," Hill said with a laugh.

Kubic said she welcomes the challenge of being the last line of defense.

"When you're last, you know what you've got to do," Kubic said. "That's why I like the relays, you feel more motivated. When you're out there by yourself, you know it's all you. But when you relay, you know that your teammates have your back."

The Wildcats won six events in all. The same foursome that captured the 400 free relay also won the 200-medley relay. Hill added a win in the 200 freestyle while Allen won both the 200 individual medley and the 100 butterfly. Kubic also took first in the 100 backstroke.

But it was far from a four-girl effort. Junior Amanda Davis, a first-year swimmer, swam in three relays and took third in the 50-freestyle. Senior Julie Davis, in just her second year in the pool, added a second-place finish to Kubic in the 100 backstroke.

"Everybody is contributing," McGarity said. "We're getting a team effort. Tonight, we were missing four girls and we kind of just tried to plug some holes and the girls stepped up."

McGarity said the times are starting to drop to where they should be this time of year if some of the Wildcats want to start thinking about qualifying for the Class 2A state meet in Fort Lauderdale next month. The season has been a successful one, though several of the swimmers wish they had more than one meet a week just to keep the competitive juices flowing.

"It seems like last year we had more Tuesday and Thursday meets, and there were more teams," Kubic said. "But that's all right. We just have to go and swim hard whenever we can."

Copyright © 2002 Naples Daily News.