Approaching the 2016-17 high school winter sports season, I realized an era is coming to a close in YAIAA swimming.
Karl Schmittle, the youngest of five Schmittle siblings to swim for York Suburban, is embarking on his senior campaign. Next year, there will be no Schmittles on the roster, and none waiting in the Trojans' wings.
Do you have any idea how many times I have typed the last name Schmittle over the years? I don’t.
Covering high school sports as long as I have, I've been fortunate to develop some great relationships with athletes and their families, particularly the families with multiple athletes. Take the Maciejewskis of Red Lion, where the youngest, Amy, is in her senior season behind her siblings Todd and Erica, who all played multiple sports. Or the Skehan brothers at York Catholic, who also played several sports.
The Schmittles are a bit different, though, because all five specialized in swimming. The Schmittle family is an institution at York Suburban and throughout local swimming, and it’s hard for even me to believe this time has come.
Is this really the last season that I'll type "Schmittle" in high school swimming stories?
I called the siblings’ mom, Lisa Schmittle, Wednesday morning to tell her my plan to write this column. If I am amazed the last sibling is now a senior, how does the mom feel?
“In some ways, it seems like this has been going on forever, but it is really hard to believe,” she said. “Because the youngest ones have been swimming since they could barely walk."
Lisa and her husband, Karl Schmittle, felt strongly about teaching all their kids to swim. The elder two started swimming competitively together 20 years ago, and since all of the kids attended those meets, the parents believed all of the children should know how to swim.
“We were concerned because the younger ones were at swim meets, they would assume they could swim, so we got them lessons very early,” Lisa said. “I had no idea they would all want to do it, and the fact they all stuck with it is amazing.”
First there was Katelyn, a teacher who is now 26. Then Lauren, 25, who is in medical school, followed by Emily, 20, studying at Penn State, and Anna, 19, studying and swimming at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland.
Finally, there is Karl. The youngest child, the only boy with four older sisters, something few people could ever really comprehend unless they lived it.
All five are very good swimmers. Lauren was a state champion, in fact. All five are even better people. They get it naturally too, from their parents.
“They each from the day they were born had their own distinct personality,” Lisa said.
So just how many hours has she spent at a pool? Lisa’s first response was, “Wow.”
“I probably in one weekend have spent 20 hours by the pool,” she said. “That’s a lot of hours, and that’s only high school. That doesn’t include club meets.”
The poolside hours aren't the only things that have piled up over the years.
During lunch at the PIAA championships at Bucknell University, Lisa told a great story about shopping at Flying Feet in York. It was a slow day, and Flying Feet owner Greg Baum asked Lisa if she wanted to know how many sets of swim goggles she had purchased at the store over the years. Lisa told him to stop when he got to 115.
“The amount of time we spent in that store is mind boggling,” Lisa said.
It's bittersweet to see the Schmittle era end, but it's been my pleasure to document the journey.