For most of the summer, you can drive by the Paris City Swimming Pool and see kids playing, splashing, and swimming to enjoy the summer and their escape from the daily routine at school. But for one day in the summer, the pool is not available to the public on the normal schedule. One Saturday is set aside for the Paris Piranha swim team and the Paris Boys and Girls Club to host teams from around the region for a swim meet.
Over 300 swimmers from Alma, Waldron, Russellville, Clarksville, Ozark, and more come to compete, with a total crowd of near 1,000 packing the surrounding lot and putting pop-up tents in every available slot. On a hot day, with heat index temperatures reaching 106 degrees, Boys and Girls Club Executive Director Joe Bujarski and the Paris team did their best to keep as many medals at home as possible. Bujarski, who is self-described as more of a motivational coach than a tactician, shows the Paris Piranha team the medals before the meet and tells them, “ I buy these because I know you can win them.”
The team of near 50 swimmers held their own against programs that have indoor facilities and allow for extended practice time.
Paris held their own and was well represented with parent volunteers and participants. This wasn’t their first meet, and they still have some to go. Recently, four kids went to El Dorado to compete in the Junior Olympic competition, seeking a spot on that swim team. Avery and Mary Pate Harper both made the JO Team, with Bethany Qualls and Keller Keen narrowly missing the cut.
In Paris, kids that are confident swimmers at age five can join the team and swim all the way to age 18. When asked to single out performances, Bujarski was a typical coach, not wanting to mention specific individuals. He spoke of the team and their effort. One swimmer he did mention was six-year-old Zoey Floren, who swam in her first meet in front of the home crowd. Though students are there three times her age, she found the courage to get in the pool and swim her events.
Paris Piranha has a Facebook page that will post all of the results. There were almost 100 races on the day, with swimmers earning their way through heat races to the finals. Results will be posted on their page, and families that are interested in having their child swim next season can get information. Look for signups to begin around April 1 of next year.