Winning in the Water
Jun 07, 2017 11:59AM
● By Ashley Pape
A 40,000-square-foot building with a state-of-the-art pool, the Carroll ISD Aquatics Center is an impressive facility. It’s not hard to imagine training young athletes for state championships here. That’s exactly what the coach of the Southlake Carroll High School swim team did a little more than 15 years ago. Before Kevin Murphy knew he would coach here, he and his wife visited the Aquatics Center while he was coaching another team.
Says Coach Murphy of the prophetic occasion, “I walked into this [facility] and said, ‘God, why don’t I ever end up in a place like this?’”
A few years later, in 2005, his prayer was answered. The veteran swim coach (Murphy has coached for more than 38 years) found himself at the Aquatics Center as head coach of the Southlake Carroll High School swim team with an edict from former athletic director Ronnie Tipps to help strengthen and grow the program as it moved from Class 4A to 5A division.
“What I liked about this place,” Coach Murphy says, “was there were good swimmers at the top. I wanted to coach up the middle and bottom.”
His strategy worked. Since 2005, the Southlake Carroll swim team has won six Class 5A Division State Championships and, now having moved into the 6A division, the Dragons continue to be victorious, win-ning this year’s Class 6A State Championships. Since 2011, the boys’ team has not lost a state championship meet—amassing more consecutive state wins than any other Carroll sport.
And swimming isn’t the only sport making a splash in the CISD Aquatics Center; the Southlake Carroll dive team has seen its share of success, including freshman Bridget O’Neil’s winning this year’s state championship and SMU-bound senior Katie Crown taking third, even after enduring various injuries during much of her high school career.
At the helm of the dive team is Coach Carolyn Hryorchuk, who has taught for 20 years and coached for 10, a few of which included coaching her own daughter, Taylor, who went on to dive with the University of Arkansas Razorbacks. She credits the athletes’ com-mitment and dedication as reasons for the dive team’s success.
“They are willing to go beyond the call,” Coach Hryorchuk says of her divers. “They take a lot of pride in our tradition and continue that tradition to work together as a team.”
Crown, who has been in the program all four of her high school years, concurs. “I believe our program is one of the best in the state because of our strong support system,” she says. “We push one another to be the best we can and to perform to the best of our capabilities.”
Both coaches, too, realize that part of what makes the swim and dive teams so strong is having good relation-ships with the club teams that feed into the programs.
PARTNERING TO PROPEL AHEAD
Swim programs such as the North Texas Nadadores (NTN), the Stingrays (a city-run parks and recreation department) and the Timarron Tiger Sharks develop swimmers and have a symbiotic relationship with the high school program. They’ve also produced some of the coun-try’s top-tier talent—2016 Summer Olympics gold medal-ist Katie Meili was a member of NTN.
The connection between the swim team and the North Texas Nadadores, in particular, has helped create stron-ger swimmers by sharing philosophy and methods while enabling dedicated swimmers the opportunity to train year-round.
“For a team to be competitive in the Texas State 6A meet, they must have a full stable of committed USA year-round swimmers,” says Coach Murphy. “Without that foundation, there is absolutely no chance of fielding a superior high school swim team at the 6A level. The Carroll High School/NTN cooperative relationship is the foundation of our swimming success.”
For diving, Coach Hryorchuk stresses that the relation-ship the Carroll dive team has with local club GC Divers has played an important role in developing the divers, and that starts with the strong bond Hryorchuk has with the head of GC Divers, Krista Klein.
“We have respect for each other, we are committed as coaches and we communicate,” Coach Hryorhuk says of her rapport with Klein. “We focus on making it the best for every athlete.”
Because school dive and club dive seasons don’t over-lap, divers can train hard year-round without competing at both levels simultaneously.
But the extra dive time that club diving gives these ath-letes is crucial. As with swimming, for most of the kids at this level to move onto state, they must have extra train-ing, says Coach Hryorchuk.
Coach Murphy, who swam in high school and col-lege, knows firsthand the level of dedication swimming requires. To put it bluntly, “It’s an awful sport; it’s hard, it takes time,” Murphy says. It requires swimming twice a day to make the jump from “pretty good” to contend at the state meet level. And not every student who comes through his program wants to do that.
“Some kids have a passion for it; some kids are just glad to be here on the varsity team,” he says.
A DRAGON EXPECTATION OF EXCELLENCE
Another factor that has led to the team’s success is spelling out the goals at the start of the season—in writing— so that everyone knows the expectation and can take the necessary steps to get there. This year, one of the girls’ swim team goals was to be in the top three in the State 6A meet; the team came in third. The boys’ swim team set a goal to come in first in the state meet, which they did. Not only are there team goals, but the student athletes are also asked to develop a personal goal for the program.
“We set goals to motivate the kids,” says Coach Murphy, who adds that the student leaders on the team also play an important role in motivating the kids. “These kids are talented and put in a tremendous amount of time,” he adds.
Coach Hryorchuk, too, relies on goal-setting to motivate the divers. “This year’s goal was to have a diver in the top three in state,” she says, and O’Neil and Crown more than delivered, bringing in first and third, respectively.
For next year? Coach Hryorchuk wants the team to have an undefeated record for the season. It’s a challenge for these kids to not only meet the swim and dive team goals but to be successful in school as well, and to that extent, to be better people.
Crown knows all too well that what she has learned throughout her years in diving reaches far beyond the sport. “I was able to find my passion for leadership. When I was able to get back on board, I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the encouragement of Coach Hryorchuk,” says Crown. “She has had such a positive impact on my life and has taught me many life lessons— one being to never give up on something you love.”
A strong community and parent support have also been instrumental in the winning seasons both coaches have seen. To that end, Coach Murphy says he relies on keeping the lines of communication open with parents. “I try to make sure parents are fully informed of everything we are trying to do,” he says, adding that it helps when the community supports not only the schools but the athletic programs as well.
“It’s a good community for athletics,” he says.
In a sense, the athletic programs are good for the community as well. Not only do the state champion swim and dive teams instill a sense of community pride, but the facility that has been so good for them is open to the community as well. On any given day, the center is open for lap swimming, water aerobics and lessons for children as young as six months old.
No doubt future Dragons occupy the lanes, and no doubt Southlake Carroll’s swim and dive teams will see yet more regional and state championship wins.