Swimmers help out with Special Olympics



Ashland and Special Olympics swimmers pose together to celebrate a successful practice.

Ben Voelker

As the season of giving nears, the swimmers on the Ashland University Swim and Dive team took time out of their busy practice schedules to help a few Special Olympics athletes practice their swimming strokes and technique.

During this unique practice, AU and Special Olympics swimmers were paired up with each other. For the Ashland swimmers, it was a great opportunity to share the knowledge of the sport that they have been doing for years.

“It’s a really good experience,” sophomore Josh Hagan said. “It not only helps [the Special Olympics swimmers] get to know new faces and get new coaching, but it also helps us swimmers that are going to try to become coaches in the future.”

Hagan and junior Makayla Tarkenton were paired up with a swimmer named Colton. Over the course of an hour, Hagan and Tarkenton taught Colton how to swim with his face underwater and how to kick water behind him while he swims. Colton progressed so quickly that Hagan and Tarkenton also taught Colton how to swim breaststroke – a stroke he had never swam before.

“It was really cool to see him get better and see his eyes light up with happiness,” Tarkenton said. “It was great just knowing that he achieved something that he didn’t think that he could do.”

For Tarkenton, Hagan, and the other swimmers that helped out with this event, this opportunity was a great chance to not only create bonds with the Special Olympics swimmers, but with their teammates as well.

“It’s great team bonding to step back and try to help someone else out,” Hagan said. “I worked with Makayla on this and I saw a bunch of other people work in the water with a bunch of other swimmers. It really helped make the whole team closer.”

Most importantly, this experience helped show the team’s true identity.

“It speaks volumes because we’re giving back to something that’s bigger than ourselves,” Tarkenton said. “It shows that our character is more than just the sport. We’re people and students who are involved outside of academics and swimming. It just shows how kind our team is to others.”