With nearly 70 kids participating, the Iola-Scandinavia swim team, continues to make a big splash.
“When Richard Wright came to me and said he wanted to start the swim team and he would volunteer, I think I almost fell over,” said Molly Vold, director of Iola-Scandinavia Community Fitness & Aquatic Center, where the team holds its home meets. “I expected he’d eventually want to be paid, but he has never wanted anything more than my support and help with registration and organizational aspects.”
The team has been in place since the summer of 2002.
“The swim team has grown almost every year it has been in existence,” Vold said. “We started with maybe 10-15, but we got up to 70 this winter.”
Made up of swimmers from Amherst, Waupaca and the Iola-Scandinavia area, the team is coached by Wright, along with parent volunteers Kelly Carlson and Sarah Holder.
“Coach Wright has dedicated countless hours to the success of this program,” Vold said. “I believe the team is all-consuming during each season for him. He has built this program from the ground up. He is obviously very proud of all the kids he has had swim for him, as he not only follows their swimming, but can also be seen watching their other sports such as basketball and volleyball or encouraging them to try the Waupaca triathlon. I often hear parents say they want their children to try swim team because of coach Wright and his reputation for motivating the kids.
“He is a retired teacher with a love for kids,” Carlson said. “He respects them and they respect him. He is kind, yet firm, caring, honest, positive, encouraging, dedicated and fair. The kids relate to him because of his love for the sport of swimming and he brings out the best in each of our swimmers.”
Jessica Faldet, 15, has been a member of the swim team for 10 years.
“Mr. Wright is someone that I look up to,” she said. “You will not meet a person that has something bad to say about him. He knows how to run a team and is always there for you. As a coach he is one of the best. If you come out of the pool and just bombed a race, he knows exactly what to say to make the next race better. He doesn’t tell you that you are bad, he recognizes talent. He is one of the nicest guys you could ever meet, someone that I consider family.”
John Faldet, 17, cannot say enough about the program.
“I have been on the swim team for 12 years and I love the team down to my heart,” he said. “It allows me to be a role model, compete and have fun all at the same time. The best part about swimming is watching the success of my fellow swimmers as they improve, just like I did when I was their age.
“Growing up, I was always on the bench, mainly in baseball,” he added. “I struggled because the coaches always gave out the vibe that the bench was my place. In the 12 years that I have been swimming, I have never sat on the bench. It’s one of the only sports that I have seen that does not let people sit on the bench. I would really encourage children to join the Iola swim team because it’s a life experience like no other.”
Swimming has helped Faldet be successful in life, he said.
“Hard work, dedication, commitment and character are just some of the many things that swimming has taught me,” he said. “The most valued lesson I have learned, however, is teamwork, a skill that can be applied to any part of your life and helps to create a successful person.”
Jessica Faldet agreed.
“There aren’t many sports where everyone can participate and have a stupendous time,” she said.
Team members recognized for their efforts during the recently completed winter season include Tayler Carlson, Aidan Elwood, Morgan Glodowski and John Faldet, Outstanding Swimmer; Matthew Glodowski, Sara Breed, Haley Glass, Zach Shulfer and Ethan Olson, Hardest Worker; Kelsey Leaf, Ryan Breed, Jacob Struble and Amber Sperl, Most Improved; Karina Lisigor, Madisyn Haas, Keygan Singh and Jayden Singh, Newcomer of the Year; and Emily Madson and Ben Gutschow, Comeback Swimmer.
“All of our swimmers deserve special recognition as they continue to improve their personal times,” Carlson said. “Their hard work and practice continues to pay off. The team’s success is due to Richard, along with help and support from all of the parents and volunteers who help with practice. He started the program and continues to promote the program, along with encouraging possible swimmers to give it a try.”
The summer season will start at the end of May and run until the end of July. Practices are held from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday through Thursday, with meets held on Saturdays.
There is flexibility with practice in that if children are interested but have conflicting obligations or activities, practice can be attended when it works with the schedule. Practices are held at the aquatic center in Iola.