Manistee Swim Team boasts record numbers, keeps winning

Manistee Swim Team member Troy Trombley competes in the 100-yard butterfly during a meet on Thursday at the Paine Aquatic Center. (Matt Wenzel/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — When Sara Wehrmeister joined the Manistee Swim Team at age 7, she had an estimated 20 teammates.

Now 10 years later, plenty has changed and the team boasts a program-record 113 swimmers this summer.

“I think it’s a little of everything to be honest,” said Kelvin Malstrom, now in his 26th season as head coach. “We’ve got a brand new, beautiful facility. We’ve got a real strong high school and junior high program and our summer rec fits right into that.”

The Paine Aquatic Center, which is attached to Manistee High School, opened in 2009, and the girls and boys varsity and middle school programs immediately followed. That helped spark growth in the Manistee Swim Team, a summer program for swimmers from youth to age 18.

“It’s a lot bigger team,” Wehrmeister said of the difference from when she started. “It’s close-knit because we have little kids, and it’s nice to see the older kids cheering on the little kids.”

The program has expanded over the years, and so has the success. The Manistee Swim Team had won 35 straight dual meets in the West Michigan Swim League heading into Thursday and prevailed over Hudsonville and Grand Haven in its lone home meet of the season. Manistee, which had a huge numbers advantage, compiled 780 points, Hudsonville scored 344 and Grand Haven 235 and the victors carried out their tradition of winning at home by pushing Malstrom into the pool.

Manistee’s Lynsey Zimmerman swims in the 25-yard butterfly. (Matt Wenzel/News Advocate)

“It’s an excellent year and we kept our winning streak alive,” said Malstrom, whose team closed the regular season as Division 3 champs at 4-0. “We’re all excited about that.”

The team has a number of current Manistee varsity swimmers and, for the girls, it’s a chance to prepare for the fall season with practice starting next month.

“It definitely helps to stay conditioned,” Wehrmeister said. “Otherwise, I don’t think I would be swimming this summer because I have a job.”

And when some get too old to swim for the team, they still remain with the program. Wes Owens, a 2010 Manistee graduate, spent six years with the team and has been coaching for the last three years.

“It’s been a great experience,” he said. “The same coaches are around, and just getting to work with some of the kids I swam with and seeing some of the younger ones come up is pretty enjoyable.”

In addition to the 200 or so swimmers filling the Paine Aquatic Center Thursday, there were a couple dozen volunteers on hand to help with timing and other duties.

“I couldn’t tell you how many families give us support and help — all the way across the board,” Malstrom said. “That’s the strength of our program.”

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