Quite frankly, I really am not sure how many YAIAA swimming championship meets I have covered, probably 20 or so. But the 2016 version of the event, held last week at Central York, reminded me once again why I love being there.
Let's start with the job done by the folks at Central. The meet runs smooth and with as little hiccups as possible. And there is Panthers coach Jim Gingerich who has taken to calling the desk in the pool office, "coach Navaroli's desk" because of how much time I spend there during the three days, including the YAIAA diving championships. Obviously I make myself quite at home around the pool deck.
The championships themselves are a chance for the league's swim stars to shine, many times in events in which they don't normally swim. But another important part is it gives those swimmers one more chance to get the times needed to qualify for their respective District 3 championships.
Yet most of all, it's a chance for these hard-working athletes to have fun, whether it be their final meet of the season, or one last chance to be with their entire teams before the district and state postseasons kick in.
Some of the fun can be downright zany. Start with the coaches, who yell, high-five, hug, and make the wildest hand gyrations possible while their swimmers are in the water. These people would make a third base coach look tame.
Then there's the swimmers themselves. One of the league's swim stars and a couple of his teammates had hair dyed what I can only describe as Easter Egg pink. It made for an interesting podium photo when he won his event. It's also fun watching the athletes interact with their teammates and the other teams. Last week there were so many selfies being taken that I had to make sure not to accidentally photo-bomb any of them.
Many teams played games while waiting their turns to swim. New Oxford swimmers were enthralled in a card game, although I couldn't tell what it was or who was winning.
But the champion of all fun from this year's event was another Colonial, senior Aaron Pecher, who had fellow swimmers and coaches sign their names on his chest, back and arms with a sharpie. Heck, he even asked me to sign his arm .... I did.
Far be it for me to not get in on the fun of the YAIAA swim championships.
--------------------------------------------------------- Steve Navaroli