And old team is coming back, hoping to make a big splash in O’Fallon.
The McKendree Metro Rec Plex in O’Fallon will be the home facility for the return of the Seahawks, a registered competitive U.S. swim team that compete in the St. Louis metro area and at the national level, said Dean Oelze, McKendree Metro Rec Plex founder and managing member.
“The metro-east has been without an independent swim team for over a decade,” Oelze said. “It has been our vision to bring the metro-east the premier aquatics facility in the St. Louis region, and resurrecting the Seahawks is the next step in raising the competitive bar while also recognizing the heritage of some of the great Seahawks swimmers.”
Kirsty Stooke, of O’Fallon, will be the team’s coach.
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“We saw the need and potential for swimmers here in the area. With the opportunity to be able to practice at a facility that offers just offers the very best, we knew we could develop the potential of these swimmers,” Stooke said.
Stooke was born and grew up in South Africa and was team captain of the Northern Transvaal South African Nationals. She attended Southern Illinois University Carbondale and was swim team captain there, too. She also competed in the South African Olympic trials in 1992 and 1996, and she represented South Africa in swimming at the World Student Games.
“Her experience as both a competitive swimmer and coach, and her dedication to the sport, will have a positive impact on the swimmers in our area,” Oelze said.
In the area for 17 years, Stooke said she’s familiar with the local swimming circuit.
“My aim for the Seahawks is to bring an outstanding USA team back to the area that is focused on building a lasting legacy of great swimming and character development. I am excited and honored to share my passion of competitive swimming with swimmers in the metro-east,” Stooke said.
Stooke comes from a long line of swimmers. Her parents both coach swimming in South Africa, and her brother was a South African record holder for many years. Her husband, Nathan Stooke, is a U.S. National Swim Team alumni and will also be helping run the team.
“It is a family thing, really,” Stooke said.
Bringing the “family thing” full circle, the couple’s three children will be competing on the Seahawks as well.
Andrea Slaughter has been named the assistant coach.
Stooke and Slaughter have more than 28 years combined of coaching experience and have been together at YOSI, a swim team in Belleville, for the last five years.
Slaughter, who has 12 years of competitive swimming under her cap , was on many club teams when her father was in the U.S. Army. She was a Kentucky state champion in the 200 free style, a high school All-American, and a two-time collegiate All-American at the University of South Carolina.
Slaughter said she has been coaching in the metro-east for the past nine years and “is excited to build a team that trains in a state of the art training facility.”
Stooke said, when competing in swimming there are really two types of swim programs in the U.S. — YMCA and USA swimming.
“USA swimming follows guidelines that follow international regulations for swimming,” Stooke said.
The Seahawks is part of the USA swim organization.
“USA swimming is kind of the governing body for swimming in the United States. It states that, if you wanna make it to the national team, you have to be a part of (it),” Eleanore Stevens, Metro Rec Plex aquatics director.
Olympic hopefuls have to be a part of a USA swimming program under the international sanctioning body of Federation Internationale De Natation to get to the “big leagues.”
“So if you wanted to go to the Olympics, you’d have to be in a USA program,” Oelze said.
Making the cut
Stooke said there are requirements to be able to be on the Seahawks, including adept skills.
“Swimming is a 13-month-out-of-the-year sport, really. It’s a tremendous amount of hard work in the water and out,” Stooke said.
While school remains in session, Stooke said the practices will be Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the competitive pool. The practice schedule will change to Monday through Friday, from 7 to 9 a.m., once school is out for summer break.
Saturday practices will be from 8 to 10 a.m.
“We also have what we call ‘dry land’ practices before the swim practices, which consist of strength training and conditioning,” Stooke said.
Dry land practices will be Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 4:30 to 5:20 p.m.
“Practices began on May 1, but enrollment is still open,” said Stooke, who wasn’t able to say when registration would be closed.
With 28 Seahawks swim team members are already “in the pool,” Stooke said. She believes that number will increase as word spreads about the team.
For more information on joining the Seahawks, call 618-589-3800 or watch the Metro Rec Plex’s Facebook page for updates and schedules.