Wet Wahoos use success to look for bigger pond

They are called the Wet Wahoos, and they are often overlooked in the world of swimming in Charlottesville, given the consistency and success of the Virginia men's and women's varsity swimming and diving team. The Virginia club swimming team has emerged from previous failure into a large and successful program. The team consists of roughly 125 swimmers who dedicate some of their free time to continuing their passion for swimming.

Junior Kevin Walter, next year's vice-president, swims not only because he loves to race, but because he wants to sustain the physical aspect of swimming.

"People come out to swim to stay in shape," Walters said. "Most of the swimmers swam in high school, and now they are swimming club to maintain some level of swimming."

Though there is a considerable amount of passion motivating the club swimmers, the level of formality is not the same as in high school.

"This is more informal than regulated high school swimming," junior vice-president Jacek Slowikowski said. "It helps take the stress away."

In an attempt to build upon present successes, the club swimming program at Virginia is working toward joining a national association of adult swimmers. The Adult Swimming Association University League is an upstart program that works to bring competitiveness to swimming.

"It is an initiative by a couple of people at the University of Houston," junior president Doug Wharam said. "There is no organizational body in the country for club swimming like other sports, such as tennis. It is an attempt to get an association started."

With a membership in this association, there is hope that it will help push the club swimming team to a higher level.

"Hopefully the association will get more people excited and serious about swimming," Slowikowski said.

Joining the association will only help add to the success that the club swimming team already enjoys. In every meet so far this season, the team has finished in the top four.

"The season has been good," Wharam said. "We had a great showing at East Carolina last semester. We had a great showing at the University of Pennsylvania meet. We have another one coming up at UNC where I am sure we will do well."

At the ECU meet, the Wet Wahoos finished first overall, edging out second place Carolina 348 to 336.

At the UPenn meet, Virginia finished in fourth place behind Maryland, JMU and UPenn.

The third annual Wet Wahoo's Waterfest February 26, an AFC-hosted event, was a success for Virginia club swimming and the nine other schools that attended. Virginia finished second overall, only a couple points behind JMU. The men won first place and the women placed third.

Virginia club swimming is providing the opportunity for the swimmer in many Virginia students to emerge or stay alive. It allows students to swim in competitive meets while enjoying the togetherness of a team. It can even provide swimmers with the chance to shave, or paint, the Virginia "V" onto their chest to show that swimming -- even club -- in Charlottesville is a big deal.

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