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MHS swimmers begin inaugural season

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The Morgan High School Trojans finally have a swimming team! For years, anyone in the valley who has wanted to participate in the sport of swimming at the high school level has been forced to attend other schools. But that is no longer the case. Due to the persistent efforts of parents and community members, local students can finally represent Morgan High in the pool.

Led by head coach Kelly Toomer, the Trojans participated in their first event on Nov. 2 – a practice meet at North Summit High School.

The meet was designed to give the Trojans a glimpse of what the season will look like. And it was a good test. While a few of the athletes swam at other schools last season, and a few have participated in club swimming, many of the swimmers have never competed before and some have very little experience in a pool at all.

But that’s where Toomer comes in.

Known by many around town as Trainer Kelly, or T.K. for short, Toomer spent several years at MHS as the trainer for the Trojans’ sports teams.

But she’s much more than a trainer. She’s also now a full-time teacher at MHS, where she teaches all of the medical classes: anatomy, physiology, emergency medical responder (EMR), health and even a PE class. She also swam competitively “back in the day.”

With such a strong medical and athletic background, Toomer has a lot of wisdom and technical knowledge to offer to kids who have shown up with a wide range of abilities.

“There’s definitely different levels of skill,” Toomer said. “But the ones who are just starting this year have just made major improvements so fast. So I have high hopes for us later on in the season.

“It’s our first year and we’re excited,” Toomer added. “There is so much to do, but I feel that we have so many quality athletes. There’s nowhere to go but up from here. I’m just stoked to be here and the kids are doing so good so far.”

The team consists of about 30 athletes, which is a terrific start for a first-year program. Some of the Trojans’ top swimmers – so far – include freshman Justin Milliner, sophomores Carson Skidmore and Rachel Wheelwright, and juniors McKenna Dewitt and Raen Wilkinson. Toomer also expects big things from the boys’ relay team and the girls’ freestyle relay team.

While the focus will definitely be on the athletes this season, Toomer can’t help but feel a bit nervous and anxious herself. And she’s not even getting in the pool.

“I am so excited for this year,” she said “I was getting nauseous before the (practice) meet. It’s just what I do. I get nervous and so excited for these kids. And the kids are nervous too, which is awesome. There’s so much to learn and so much room to grow. I’m just so excited to do this.”

Helping Toomer keep things in order are assistant coaches Mindy Wheelwright and Laura Wilson. Those two were also the ones who spearheaded the effort to get a swim team at MHS.

“They’ve been just awesome,” Toomer said. “I seriously can’t thank them enough. Mindy has been awesome with all the paperwork. That’s one thing that really scared me about coaching, dealing with the paperwork. I think I’m more of the cheerleader-type coach. So Mindy has dealt with all of the paperwork and scheduling. We didn’t even have a schedule this year and Mindy created that for us.”

There was also the issue of where the new team would practice. There are no indoor facilities of sufficient size in Morgan. While there are several pools around Weber County, costs and availability were challenges the new coaching staff had to address.

“We thought about using the river, but no one was really down for that,” Toomer joked.

Eventually, the team settled on the pool at the Marshall White Center on 28th Street in downtown Ogden. For now, the swimmers have to find their own way to practice, which occurs every day after school from 3:30 to 5 p.m., except for “dry land” practice on Monday afternoon and Wednesday before school.

Being on a first-year swim team is not for the faint of heart and requires a commitment from both the students and parents.

“It’s a grit-type sport for sure,” Toomer said. “I think that’s a misconception for a lot of people, that it’s just swimming. But a lot of people can’t hang in the pool. Once they’re here, it’s a whole different ball game, and we’re glad to have the ones who are sticking it out.”

The commitment extends to the coach as well.

“It’s been a lot of work and a little overwhelming at times,” Toomer admitted. “I have two young kids at home, too. Evening out my time between teaching and coaching and being a mom has been quite the trial.  But it’s been fun, and these kids just make it worth it. They just have such good spirits.”

The Trojans have 10 swim meets between now and Jan. 24, when the region championship meet will occur at South Summit High School. The state championships are scheduled for Feb. 8 at the Wasatch Aquatic Center in Heber City.

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