This year, the Converse Valkyries swim team invited the Area 12 Special Olympics swim team to make its new home on campus in the Montgomery Pool. Area 12 hosted its first and only home meet of the season Wednesday, March 5, with students from several local schools, including the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind, participating alongside special needs adults ranging in age up to 60.
"The kids are so grateful for the time we spend with them. It opens your eyes to a new view of your sport and is a reminder for why you fell in love with swimming."
The Area 12 team found their home at Converse after the Spartanburg Swim Center was torn down last year. The team needed a place to train and to host competitions, as well as additional coaching support. The Converse Valkyries swim team stepped in, with head coach Corey White and several Valkyries swim team members attending weekly Saturday practices to help coach the swimmers. The team made the commitment together, White said, because they wanted to share their talents in a way that impacts the lives of others.
Converse sophomore swimmer Meghan Johnson of Wisconsin has worked with the Special Olympics for the past five years. "It is an awesome experience to coach others in a sport you love," she said. "No matter how small or great a step these kids make, even if you just get to put your head under the water one week, we celebrate. The kids are so grateful for the time we spend with them. It opens your eyes to a new view of your sport and is a reminder for why you fell in love with swimming. These friendships are very special."
The Area 12 team includes standout swimmers Ruriko Nakashima, Peter Brown and Sharon Kirby, who will compete in the USA Games this coming June. This is Kirby's second time participating in the Games. Team member Johnny Littlejohn has competed in the World Games, and Rion Holcombe was celebrated throughout the Upstate earlier this year when he was accepted to attend Clemson University next fall. Head coach Kristy Morrow's son, Jason, is also a member of the team and competed in the World Games in Shanghai, China several years ago.
Area 12 will compete around the state for the remainder of the season, ending with the State Games at Fort Jackson in May.