Colusa will see the return of competitive swimming next summer thanks to a very successful fundraising event on Saturday.
More than 100 swimmers backstroked, breaststroked, and freestyled their way to the finish line, raising more than $10,000 to restart a program many thought had died with the ages.
“It completely exceeded my expectations,” said organizer Melissa Yerxa Ortiz, at Saturday’s event. “I am beyond excited. My goal was 100 swimmers and we beat that. The support from the community has been overwhelming.”
Swimmers competed for trophies at the Colusa Swimming Pool in a number of events, mostly 25-meter and 50-meter races.
They also competed for best flotation devices and best-dressed swimmer, the latter honor going to the Colusa Fire Department volunteers, who came out of the locker room in cutoff turnout gear, held up by suspenders and with their faces smeared with zinc oxide, before stripping down to their swimsuits for the 50 meter relay.
The event attracted swimmers of all ages, including former competitive swimmers and would-be competitive swimmers.
“I haven’t competed in over 50 years,” said Lynn Spivak, who started competitive diving and swimming at age 5, in Oklahoma.
While Spivak got into the Colusa pool to support Ortiz and the reformation of a Colusa swim program, she had to admit that she enjoyed just being back in the race.
“Honestly, it felt great,” she said. “I liked the backstroke better than the freestyle, but both were fine. I did two races, both 25 meters.”
There was also a large contingency of swimmers from competitive teams from Willows, Gridley, Durham, and Orland, who currently swim in the league that Colusa once belonged to.
“A few days ago we learned that there was a swim team in Colusa trying to start back up and we thought it would be fun to attend,” said Theron Clark, 14, a competitive swimmer with the Durham Dolphins.
Clark has been a competitive swimmer for about 10 years and enjoys having a sport to do in the summer when many youth his age have little to do.
“It forces me to get up and do something, gets some exercise, and have fun,” he said.
A dinner, raffle, and snack bar rounded out Saturday’s fundraising experience. Attendees at the event also voted in a new name for the team, the Colusa Cyclones, although the names Aquacats and Torpedoes, among others, were also considered.
“The overwhelming majority of the votes went to the Colusa Cyclones,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz said the money from the fundraiser would go toward league fees, insurance, and to hire coach Ashley Flynn, of Sacramento, who competed for California State University, in San Diego, and is now committed to making youth better swimmers.
The Colusa Cyclones are actively recruiting swimmers for next year. If you can swim from one end of the pool to the other without touching the side then you can be on the team through age 18.
“Our goal next year is to make it fun for kids to be in the water and learn to be good swimmers,” Ortiz said. “We live next to the Sacramento River and we want them to be safe.”
Ortiz said that while she was never the best swimmer, she loved being a part of the team for the camaraderie.
“There are few places where 18-year-olds get to cheer on five-year-olds and where five-year-olds get to cheer on 18-year-olds,” she said. It was so fun to have big kids as my friends and little kids that were my friends.”
Ortiz said in a community in which everyone and everything are interdependent, swimming is a great way for kids to get to know each other and look out for each other. ■