The annual tradition of high school swimmers jumping in the pool at the Marietta Family YMCA on Martin Luther King Jr. Day just got a little bit bigger.
This year's annual Martin Luther King Invitational swim meet, hosted by the YMCA on behalf of the Marietta Tigers, features the largest contingent of teams ever to take part.
"We're looking forward to it. It's going to be a long meet. It's already the largest we've ever had. We're going to be here probably into the evening, I think," said Marietta High School swim coach Walt Teer.
All told, 17 teams are registered to compete in the annual swim meet, along with approximately 275 swimmers on those teams.
Among the teams competing will be Marietta, Parkersburg, Parkersburg South, Williamstown, Athens, Alexander, John Glenn, Circleville, Logan Elm, Marysville, Gallia Academy, River Valley, Bishop Rosecrans, Philo, Riverview, Dover and Heath, said Marietta Family YMCA aquatics coordinator Stacy Urbaniak.
Even with all those teams, the Y is still expecting smooth sailing for the meet, which will once again be coordinated by Fred Smith.
"We are going to start around 11 a.m. with warm-ups on Monday. The meet should start around 12:30 (p.m.) and hopefully we will be done at 5:30 p.m.," Urbaniak said.
The meet will get started with the girls' 200 medley relay and conclude with the boys' 400 free style relay.
Monday's biggest event in terms of participants will be the 50 yard freestyle, which will feature 83 girls participating and 56 boys, Urbaniak said.
As short as that race is, it could quite possibly be the longest of the day.
"It's a short race, but we're probably going to have about 15 heats, 16 heats," Teer said.
To help keep the meet on track, this year's Martin Luther King Invitational has a qualifying time limit on the 500 yard freestyle for both boys and girls. The intent is to avoid having a 10 minute-plus race in the middle of the meet, Teer explained.
As big as the meet is, the Tiger swimmers are still hopeful of putting up a strong showing in their only scheduled home meet.
Key contributors for the Tigers include coach Teer's son, Devin, as well as Terry Morris on the boys side. Claire Collette and Luisa Barton should do well on the girls side to name just a few.
"For us to have a good showing, it's going to take everyone having their best times of the season to date," coach Teer said.
The challenge for Marietta is competing when the Tigers know they're going to be a tad short in terms of manpower compared to the teams they're competing against.
"That's going to be the problem, is the lack of depth and the actual numbers compared to some of the teams coming in. We're outnumbered in some cases 4-to-1 by some of the other teams," coach Teer said.
Outnumbered or not, the Tigers are still looking forward to competing in front of the home crowd, coach Teer noted.
When they're not in the pool competing, participants in the Martin Luther King Invitational will be hanging out in the YMCA gym, along with spectators.
Parking will be available in the YMCA parking lot as well as the Giant Eagle parking lot across from the YMCA, Urbaniak noted. People who do park at Giant Eagle will need to exercise caution when crossing Ephraim Cutler Street as they walk to the Y.
"The Y should be filled up that day," she said.
Admission to the event is $5 for students and adults, or $20 for a family, while children under school age are free.
"Everyone's invited and welcome to come out and support the high school team," coach Teer said.