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beaufort — It seems only logical for a school within walking distance of a body of water and with a Mariner as its mascot to have a swimming team.
However, East Carteret has never had one.
Until this year.
For the first time in the 45-year history of the school, the Mariners will get out of the boat, so to speak, and into the water as East suits up its first-ever swimming team.
“I've always wanted a team at East,” said coach Tom Mason. “It would be such a compliment to the summer league and be such a benefit to the year-round swimmers in Beaufort. A lot of them are in the seventh and eighth grade right now. There will be 40-50 swimmers in the summer league, so the interest is here in Beaufort.”
Mason, who coached the West Carteret swimming team for three years (2001-2003), including a third-place state finish in his first year, started a summer league at the Eastern Athletic Club in Beaufort in 2004.
“We started the summer league five years ago and most of the kids started out as 7-8 year olds and now they are 12-13 year olds. So in the next couple of years all those kids will be here at East.”
Mason also coaches for the Carteret Currents, a year-round competitive swim club for ages 5-18 affiliated with N.C. Swimming and USA Swimming.
In its first year, the Mariners feature a roster of 18 swimmers, including Carteret Currrent swimmers Alexandria Golden and Jacob Lasky. Being year-round swimmers gives Golden and Lasky head starts as Mariner swimmers, but Mason believes the team features fresh talent, as well.
“We have some good athletes on this team,” he said. “Kids like Keith Pickens and Daniel Chesire are surfers, so they are very good swimmers. And surfers, too, get a head start when they join the swimming team.”
Golden, Lasky, Pickens and Chesire all performed well at East's first swim meet last week versus West and Croatan at the Sports Center in Morehead City (See related story).
Those four and the rest of the East swimmers couldn't wait for their first meet.
“The kids are very excited,” said Mason the night of the meet. “Some of them have shaved their heads and you usually only do that for championship meets. But this is their first meet and they couldn't have looked forward to it any more.”
According to Mason, the Eastern Athletic Club has provided the ability to have both a summer league in Beaufort and now a swimming team at East.
“In my opinion, we have the best swimming pool in the county,” he said. “The water is clear and really isn't used all that much. And we probably have more lane time than any team in the county, too. They are very generous to us and it would be a shame not to take advantage of this facility.”
The Mariners won't host any meets at their home facility this season, but will travel for all five of their regular season meets. East's next meet is on Wednesday at New Bern in an eight-team competition.
Assistant coaches for East this season are Michelle Lasky and Robbie Bittner, a former West Carteret state champion and UNC-Chapel Hill swimmer.