By Ryan Kaczmarski
In 1971, the Village of Westview ceased to exist, formally merging with the Village of Olmsted, therefore officially becoming the city of Olmsted Falls in 1972.
Even though that happened more than 40 years ago, there is still one holdover which still carries the Westview name, and that is the Westview Swim Team (WVST), which competes out of the Westview Homeowners Association pool, located on Redwood Drive in Olmsted Falls.
The team is made up of kids between the ages 4 and 18, and swims in the Southwest Swim League from June 17 through July 19.
The coaching staff is led by veteran swimming coach Sara Gildea, who formerly coached the swimming and diving teams at Mercyhurst College, Baldwin Wallace University and Savannah College of Art and Design (Ga.).
“We were kind of all over the place, but for family, and a lot of other reasons – my two kids – we decided to come back up to Cleveland,” Gildea, who is a resident in Olmsted Falls, said.
Gildea is formally retired from coaching as a profession, but elected to coach the community team which her children will undoubtedly become members. Going from coaching people getting ready for Olympic Trials, to beginner swimmers has been a great transition for Gildea.
“This has been going down to the basics,” she said. “We are teaching the strokes and how to do them correctly.
“Everyone picks up their bad habits in the beginning, and that compounds as they swim later on in college or even professionals. This is the time to learn how to do it correctly, and that’s what we are trying to do as much as possible.”
Gildea and her assistant coaches, who are both current members of the team, as well as a current member and a former member of the Olmsted Falls High School team, actually get in the water during practices and show the swimmers the correct motions and body positions to make a “perfect” stroke.
“For the young swimmers, it’s harder to make the body-mind connection than it is for the older athletes,” Gildea explained. “That’s the biggest hurdle for the young swimmers to get over.
“You try to explain the body techniques to them and they just stare at you. So that’s why we get into the water and show them, so they can see what we are talking about. We try to keep up with the science of proper swimming techniques.”
The team used to be only open to people who lived in what was once known as the “Flair” development, which includes Redwood Drive, Locust Drive, and Fernwood Drive (and most smaller branch streets in between), but now is opened up to most of Olmsted Falls (except Falls Pointe) and Columbia Station.
“This program is definitely ready to grow,” Gildea said. “Unfortunately for Olmsted Falls, we don’t have the luxury of an indoor pool and outdoor pool, like North Olmsted and others. The fact that we actually offer this to most of Olmsted Falls and Columbia Station, where the kids might not have had the opportunity before, is fantastic.”
The WVST program is also under new leadership with first-year president Cynthia Allen taking the reigns and guiding the team into the future with great growth potential.
“I’ve been associated with the team for four year, but this is my first as president,” Allen said. “I took over from Katherine Davis, who is now our South West Swim League representative, because she was dong it forever and needed a break.
“The biggest challenge was just being new to the position, and not knowing everything that needed to be done. But Katherine has been great in communicating with me to make it a smooth transition.”
This year’s team is one of the largest in recent times, with 105 members between the boys and girls.
“It’s a lot to manage all of those families,” Allen exclaimed.
The Westview Sharks compete against teams from Falls Pointe, Longbrooke (Berea), Oakridge Medina), Berea Rec. and Falling Oaks (North Royalton). WVST will travel to Berea Rec. tomorrow at 6:15 p.m., with the next home meet on July 1, as the Sharks host Longbrooke at 6:15 p.m.
The schedule continues with a July 8 meet at Falling Oaks, then the Sharks will host its annual Swim-A-Thon July 12 from 9:30-11:30 a.m.
The SWSL championship meet is on July 19 at Berea Rec., starting at 8:40 a.m.
For more information on WVST, go to www.whoaconnect.org/Swim_Team.html.