By Randy Arrington
STANLEY, Feb. 12 — With the lack of a swim team in Page County, local youth have been forced to travel to Shenandoah County to participate in the swim league there.
In 2012, the New Market Lightning — the closest team in the Shenandoah County Swim League — had two swimmers on its roster from Page County. The following year it was four. By 2019, the number had grown to 32.
Due to the increasing interest, Page County is now planning to form its own swim team — the Stanley Stingrays.
“A group of teachers started approaching me about starting a program here,” swim coach Corey Harlow told the Stanley Council on Wednesday night. “We’re willing to do the work to get the financial part done. What we’re looking for is a commitment from the town.”
After a brief, but enthusiastic discussion about the prospect of bringing in more swimmers to the Hawksbill Pool and more visitors to the town, the Stanley Council unanimously gave a vote of support for the formation of the team.
Council’s action is not tied to any financial commitment, but rather an agreement for the use of town facilities. Those organizing the new swim team stated that they would coordinate with the town to avoid conflicts at the pool for special events such as night swimming and National Night Out.
“We are not asking for money,” said Harlow, who coaches the Mount Jackson Fins swim team and serves as a school counselor at Stanley Elementary. “But if you are willing to give us some, we’ll take it.”
The total cost to operate the team during its eight-week season is estimated at $3,950.19. The costs break down as follows:
- Lane lines (6) — $2,174
- Stor-Lane Real — $1,224.99
- Stop watches (12) — $82.20
- Hy-Tek Software (2) — $469
The season will begin the day after Memorial Day on Tuesday, May 26. It is scheduled to end on Sunday, July 12. Practices will be held Monday through Thursday divided into three groups:
- Group #1 — 6:30 to 7:15 p.m.
- Group #2 — 7:15 to 8 p.m.
- Group #3 — 8 to 8:45 p.m.
The Stanley Stingrays, donning the team colors of yellow and black, will compete in five dual meets and one championship meet against the other five teams in the Shenandoah County Swim League (SCSL):
- Strasburg Waves
- Woodstock Dolphins
- Edinburg Ducks
- Mount Jackson Fins
- New Market Lighning
The league “fosters and encourages swimming both for exercise and for amateur competition,” according to Harlow’s presentation to the council. The SCSL was formed in 1996 by Steve Shaffer, who has served as the president of the league since its founding. That same year, swim and dive became a varsity sport at all three high schools in Shenandoah County.
At Wednesday night’s meeting, hopes of the same evolution in Page were voiced.
“Could this lead to a swim team being formed at the high schools?” asked one council member.
“Wouldn’t that be great?” replied Valerie Ferrell, director of the Stanley Stingrays. “Who knows what it could lead to, but that would be our hope. Maybe if it’s not a varsity sport, there could be clubs formed. We now have running clubs at all of our elementary schools.”
Each of the five teams currently in the SCSL have between 60 to 90 members each. The maximum team membership allowed by the league is 90. Those forming Page’s first swim team believe they can reach that figure.
There is no guarantee that all 32 Page County swimmers currently participating in Shenandoah County will join the Stingrays, but organizers feel there is much broader interest beyond the ones already swimming — and the Stingrays are open to all swimmers countywide ages 4 to 18.
“I truly think we could hit 90” members, Harlow told the council.
Organizers said the $65 fee to join the Stingrays buys more than just time in the pool. Beyond the obvious health benefits, they touted the mentoring between younger and older swimmers, the spirit of competition and most importantly, the goal of just having fun.
The next step in the process will be a Feb. 25 meeting of the Stingrays’s team representatives to further organize plans prior to a March board meeting of the SCSL, where Stanley’s membership will be considered. If approved to join the league, registration for the Stanley Stingrays will begin in March.
Harlow has years of experience coaching swimming in both recreational leagues and at the high school level. His enthusiasm is evident, and he’s optimistic about the local program’s future.
“There’s a lot of work to do to get this ready by May,” said the swim coach, noting that the league’s schedule will have to be adjusted if the Stingrays are added to the lineup.
“There are a lot of possibilities… from more visitors in town getting gas and eating, to the potential for a high school team,” Harlow said. “This could be a really great thing for Stanley, and for the county as a whole.”
Shenandoah County Swim League Inc. is a 501 3(c) non-profit volunteer-based organization. So all donations are tax deductible. To help create Page County’s first swim team and donate to the Stanley Stingrays, contact Corey Harlow at (540) 335-0853 or Valerie Ferrell at (540) 742-2953.