By Matt Hill
The Elizabethton High School swim team may only have two seniors, but they have set the tone for future success.
Chelsea Taylor and Emily Lyons have been a part of something special at EHS this year, which is the rebirth of a swim team that had limited success in recent years until the current campaign.
EHS coach Justin Conway has brought a family atmosphere and winning attitude to the program. Taylor says this has been the best year of her three-year career.
“It’s been by far my favorite year,” Taylor said. “He’s actually coaching because he wants to, not because somebody asked him. This year we have improved because we have enjoyed actually swimming for once. We have a different competitive drive and it’s amazing how the community has really backed us up this year than in the previous years I have swam.”
The swim team really came together as the girls finished seventh in the region and the boys finished fourth. Taylor says it was an amazing thing to be a part of.
“I’m really surprised at how well we’ve done because the previous two years I swam we were good, but we didn’t have that competitive drive,” she said. “The practices are a lot harder.”
For Lyons, this is her first year swimming and she may have been one of the most improved from beginning to end. She surprised herself a little bit.
“The team was really supportive and I tried to practice as hard as I could,” Lyons said. “Even though I couldn’t do what some of the other people could because they really good. Everyone was really nice.”
Lyons decided to go out for the swim team this year and she wanted to be a part of something she could enjoy. She not only enjoyed it, she even succeed.
“For three years I didn’t want to do anything and then my senior year it was like, wow it’s my last year I need to do something,” she said.
Everybody on the team reached their goals this year and Taylor was able to become a solid swimmer.
“One of the goals I had was to reach state and even though I didn’t accomplish it I left everything I had in the pool at the Last Chance Meet. I worked hard this whole year,” she said.
Both young ladies have great character and that has been a point of emphasis by Conway on this team.
Taylor wanted to set a great example for everyone around her and she accomplished that.
“I really appreciated all the swimmers I swam against, I didn’t have anything wrong with them. I just wanted to be a good sport and be looked up to as a role model,” Taylor said. “It wasn’t all about swimming, it was about being a good person too.
“No matter how bad anyone gets beat in a race, everybody shakes hands. You never get dirty looks from other teams. It’s really a good, family competitive atmosphere and just family that you’ve built up with your team.
Lyons also loves being a part of a sport where everyone respects the other swimmers.
“We all respect each other for what we can do and how tough this sport actually is,” Lyons said. “People underestimate it.”
Some of the other sports may not respect swimming like they should, but the swim team is actually one of the hardest working in the school and swimming itself is a lot more demanding than people think.
“A football player told me that it’s hard to catch your breath when you’re running like that and I said, try doing that underwater,” Lyons said.
Said Taylor: “It really bothered me a lot at first, but you really can’t get mad because somebody doesn’t understand. You have to know you’re swimming for what you like to do. In Elizabethton we’ve never really had a big team or been real competitive and it’s really hard to get what you’re deserving of. That’s what great about swimming people are here for themselves, not just to do for people to think, “Oh he’s the hot swimmer.” People are here for themselves and that’s what I like about it.
Taylor says the program is in very good hands when they leave EHS under Coach Conway, a former swimmer at EHS himself.
“I love Coach Conway’s little talks and he’s never one time yelled at us,” Taylor said. “I think that helps with our attitudes in the water because you never ever not want to go to practice. You don’t want to skip practice and you want to go, but it makes it a lot harder to have the want and the will to go if you have a coach that doesn’t appreciate you or know what your capable of. He pushes us very hard in practice, but he does that because he knows he can do it. He wants to see us excel just as much as we want to.”
Right now, Taylor and Lyons have become swim fans as two members of the team, Scout Walz and Kelsi McKamey, have reached the state meet.
They are now wanting these two Cyclones to do the best they can and make the community and the team proud.
“I’ll be sitting at home and saying they’re at swim practice right now,” Taylor said. “I support them wholeheartedly because it is such a big accomplishment and with Kelsi being a freshman that is a really big accomplishment for her.
Lyons will definitely miss being a part of such a great family at EHS.
“I will miss the family kind of feel and being a part of the team.
It will definitely be different for Taylor as well not having swimming in her life.
“I will miss being a family and meets and our school has the most school spirit, even over Science Hill, Tennessee High and Dobyns-Bennett. We’re the smallest school in the region swim team wise and we have the most spirit.
“That means more to me than winning. Winning is not as important as having school spirit and cheering on your teammates. It doesn’t matter what is going on in your life, it’s being there for them. It’s nice having people around me who support me.”
Look for a feature on Elizabethton’s state qualifiers in a future Star.