Heike Horning has been swimming since she was 4 years old and has competed internationally since she was 6, she said. Now, the local realtor who spent three years as an active-duty Soldier brings her expertise and competitive swimming experience as the coach of the post’s first youth competitive swim team.
“When I see a child that loves to swim I see the potential I say ‘Let’s go and make it fun, but at the same time, go and build them up so they can go to a competition,’” she said.
Horning said that although building a competitive team is a challenge, she evaluates individual skills while disguising it as ‘fun’ for the swimmers.
“Within the training, the races are fun for them,” she said. “What they don’t know is at the same time I see what their skill level is I see what I need to go and improve, and they’re improving their conditioning at the same time. Right now, I am in the middle of scheduling their first competition, so I want them to be eager and bring out the best in them.”
So far, Horning said she has been surprised by the eagerness and dedication of the team members.
“I have a great group with (their) dedication and loyalty already,” she said. “When the heat pump at the swimming pool broke, I asked them, ‘Do you want to go home? Or do you want to stay?’ They all wanted to stay and they all wanted to swim.”
The team only missed one practice due to the broken heat pump and was back in the pool a few days later. Horning said while her goal is to have swimmers compete at the national level, the process will be gradual and begins with competing locally.
Faith Middle School’s Katie Dixon, 13, and Zachary Rodriguez, 12, who both said they have been swimming since they were about 5, have traveled very different paths in becoming teammates on the post team.
Katie has been on swim teams at Fort Hood, Texas, Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and Hohenfels, Germany, and most recently, the Hurricanes, a swim team from Columbus. Katie said she hopes by being on a competitive team will help her get scholarship consideration in the future.
“Knowing that this was going to happen (forming a competitive team), I knew I could possibly reach my goal of getting a swimming scholarship,” she said. “I need to be able to be better on my flip turns and I need to be faster. Being on the team will help all of those.”
Although Zachary said he always liked to swim, he didn’t really consider swimming competitively until his brother, Joshua, who ran cross country competitively, suffered a leg injury.
“He couldn’t run for a long time, so he started doing swimming,” Zachary said. “I went there every day (with him) at Smith gym and I would do twenty to fifty laps a day. I started becoming a better swimmer and started doing more laps and eventually I wanted to join a swim team.”
Zachary said Joshua has returned the favor by helping him with his strength and endurance.
“He’s let me use his bike to go bike riding,” Zachary said. “It has helped me with building my leg endurance up.”
Swimmers like Katie and Zachary are only two of the swimmers on the team, which Horning said has reached it capacity — until she can find another competitively experienced coach.
“I am maxed already,” she said. “I already have people on the waiting list and I would like another volunteer to allow me to increase the team to fifty. With the age group and skill levels, I can handle what I have now, but with another coach we could probably fill all the age groups and skill levels.”
For now, Horning is looking for a volunteer coach. If you have competitive swimming experience and would like to become part of the Child, Youth & School Services swim team staff, call Dorrie Wagner at 706-545-1853. To be placed on the swim team waiting list, call Wagner at 706-545-1853. Swimmers must be between the ages of 10 to 18 and already know how to swim.