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Hi-Line Living: Continuing decades-old traditions on the Lions Swim Team


Last updated 1/10/2020 at 11:41am

Havre Daily News/Jack Lambert

Lions Swim Team Member Audrey Taylor puts on her swim cap before practice in the Havre Community Pool Tuesday. Taylor is one of two swimmers from Havre attending the Washington Open Meet January 17-19 in Federal Way.

The Havre Lions Swim Team is seeing a resurgence in its decades-old tradition of training swimmers and competing, including qualifying two swimmers for out-of-state competitions

Former Lions Swim Team and Havre High School Swim Team head coach Chris Inman said the Lions started in 1958, as a member of the Amateur Athletic Union — AAU — Association.

Lions Swim Team Head Coach Hayley Coursey, who took over last January, said the program has grown phenomenaly in the last year.

The team had 12 swimmers when she started, and, as of this month, now has 48 swimmers.

“We’ve grown a lot in the last year,” she said. “We started a non-competitive group that only practices two days a week for 45 minutes, and that group has grown to 20 swimmers, which is pretty awesome to see.” 

She took over a program with a long tradition of strong swimmers.

Inman began coaching the Lions in 1988, for 25 years, she said, and 16 of those years she also coached the Havre High School Swim Team.

“They needed a coach and I was available,” Inman said. “They asked me to be their coach, I stepped in and I really enjoyed coaching the Lions Swim Team and enjoyed coaching the high school swim team and had a good time.”

Havre High School coach Jill Cammon coached the Lions team before starting at the high school, where she took over after Inman left the coaching position in 2013.

The Lions team has been competing this year with some impressive results, including two swimmers qualifying for an out-of-state meet next week, the Washington Open in Federal Way, Washington, Jan. 16-19.

Lions swimmers Audrey Taylor and Carson Sandstrom, who also swims on the Havre High team, are going to Washington with Coursey for that meet, each swimming in several events.

Cammon said it has been five years or more since a Havre Lions swimmer qualified for an out-of-state USA Swimming event.

Both swimmers said they are excited to go to the out-of-state meet, and Coursey said their qualifying was “awesome.”

“It’s just a proud moment as a coach,” she said.

See related story on Page A1 of Wednesday’s Havre Daily News.

The Lions team

Coursey said the Lions team has several differences from high school competitive teams to offer swimmers.

The age range of swimmers who can join the Lions Swim Team is 5 to 19 years, and while the high school team competes two months out of the year, the Lions swim team is active most of the year.

“We are year-round, always continuing, always conditioning, always trying to improve and get those personal bests in swim and in practice and grow as a team,” Hayley Coursey said.

She added that the only time the team is not in the pool is when it takes a break in August and September.

When in the pool, the team is “working on getting better, working on our endurance and growing as a team,” she said.

The Lions Swim Team is part of the USA Swimming organization, and members can participate in numerous competitions, including as individual racers in the four different types of strokes, freestyle, backstroke, butterfly and breastroke, she said. Swimmers also can swim in medleys that have combinations of those strokes, in an individual event or in a team relay.

USA Swimming sets standards and motivational times on different levels.

She said USA Swimming puts out a four-year standard following the Olympics schedule, with motivational times listed on different levels, from AAAA to B.

“BB times in the state of Montana are your hard cuts for state, so if you get one BB time you qualify for state and then any of your B times are considered bonus swims. Above that, they are kind of motivational goals. Senior sectionals are looking at double AA … times, so way high up where you are looking at, like, 20-second difference (in times),” she said.

Coursey said the competitions occur in two different seasons, a short course season and long course season.

The short course season’s timeline starts in September with the first meet and runs till BC Championship and the Montana High School Association State meet, this year Feb. 14-15, and the Swimming USA-affiliated Montana Swimming BC state meet, for the state of Montana in Feb. 21-23.

Coursey said she is starting a new program, “Intro to Swim Team,” this season. The prerequisites include having the child swim 25 meters of the pool doing either backstroke or freestyle, learning all the techniques from a certified coach.

Coming to coach the Havre team

Coursey brought her passion for the sport to the position with the Havre Lions Swim Team.

Though this is her first year coaching the team, Coursey said she was the head coach for the Whitefish Wave Ryders for five years and prior to that she coached college swimming for the Medford Sharks at Southern Oregon University.

“I started coaching just coming out of college, doing swimming lessons, and I got recruited by the Medford Sharks coach seeing something in me, and I just fell in love with the sport,” she said. “I swam as a young, little kid because my mom didn’t want me to get into trouble in the water, which is great, definitely helps being in Montana with all the lakes here, and it just is a passion of mine. I love swimming and seeing the athletes grow.”

People interested in learning more about the Lions Swim Team can contact Coursey at [email protected] .

Havre Daily News/Jack Lambert

Lions Swim Team Member Audrey Taylor practices butterfly in the Havre Community Pool Tuesday. Taylor is one of two swimmers from Havre attending the Washington Open Meet January 17-19 in Federal Way. Taylor is competing in in the 100-meter breaststroke, 50-meter freestyle, 200-meter individual medley and 200-meter freestyle.

“We are a family-friendly program and we just are here to help the community and help kids grow not only as athletes, but as children, as well, and creating good responsibilities, good atmosphere and making sure we are always doing our best,” Coursey said.


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