Cheers from over 100 fans encouraged competitors Saturday at Campus Pool at a swim meet like no other; neither team lost.
The third annual Splash Olympics featured UCSB swim team members as well as swimmers from the Devereux Center, a nonprofit organization that provides services for people with emotional, developmental and educational disorders. Swimmers competed in relays and the 3-meter diving board event. Organizers said the event, which included a raffle and live band, was an opportunity for the Gaucho swimmers to give something back to the community that supports them.
“It’s our way of reaching out to the community,” said UCSB swim team Head Coach Gregg Wilson. “It’s easy for us because it’s what we do, but it doesn’t come so easy to the Devereux athletes.”
Wilson said the Devereux and UCSB swim teams spent every Thursday in April training for the event to build the skills of the Devereux swimmers.
“It’s about swimming, but it’s also about forming bonds,” said T.K. Erwin, event liaison and Gaucho junior backstroke/fly swimmer. “I see some of the kids we work with downtown and they’re super stoked to see me because of the relationships we develop.”
Each relay team consisted of two Devereux swimmers and two Gaucho swimmers, with the Devereux swimmers leading and anchoring the team. The olympics ended with the Devereux team jumping off the 3-meter diving board and an awards ceremony. All of the Devereux swimmers stood on a pedestal and had medals placed around their necks while the crowd cheered.
Devereux swim coach Ryan Sportel said the Splash Olympics has been successful every year since it began in 2003.
“I wasn’t sure what it would look like the first year we came here,” Sportel said. “But we were pleasantly surprised.”
The midmorning event included live music from local band Don Julio Blanco, free bagels and coffee and a raffle for various Speedo products and swim team gear.
“The kids really love this event,” Sportel said. “But what they really love is hanging out with all the Gauchos.”