Months of training paid off for six local swimmers who participated in last week's "Swim the Smith" event.The group completed a 31-mile relay in just under 19 hours — several hours ahead of …
Months of training paid off for six local swimmers who participated in last week's "Swim the Smith" event.
The group completed a 31-mile relay in just under 19 hours — several hours ahead of schedule.
The original plan was to swim the 35-mile length of Smith Lake. However, Coach Danny Arnold said a drop in water level caused some concern several days before the swim, and the route was adjusted.
"There was a lot of waterway that was questionable to swim in, and I wouldn't take my swimmers into that," Arnold said.
The swimmers' speed also exceeded Arnold's expectations. He had anticipated that the group would cover 8 miles in the first six hours. Instead, they covered 10 miles and kept up the pace as each swimmer took their turn in the water for an hour.
"I thought we would lose time at night, but we swam as well at night if not better than we did during the day," Arnold said.
The relay began Thursday morning in Winston County about 5 miles upstream from Lakeshore Inn in Double Springs. The first swimmer, Amanda Darty, entered the water at 7:07 a.m.
The group walked out hand-in-hand at the boat launch at Smith Dam at 2 a.m. on Friday.
The team was made up of Amanda Darty, Ginger Odom, Christie Blankenship, Shannon Day, Angela Jo Harris and Brad Adkins.
Two pontoon boats and a kayak accompanied the swimmers for the entire journey, and the water patrol shadowed the group from Duncan Bridge to the finish at the dam.
One of the pontoons carried Arnold and the swimmers, while the other carried support personnel such as a lifeguard and a medic.
A bass boat was also used to transport boat drivers and kayakers to the shore and pick up additional volunteers to take their place throughout the day.
Arnold said the swimmers were overwhelmed by the support they received from volunteers, as well as from Facebook users who tracked their progress throughout the day via the "Swim the Smith" Facebook page.
A few supporters even brought pizza for the swimmers out to the boat.
Residents of Smith Lake also came out to offer encouragement.
"We had boats that would come out and stay on the side floating along with us. Once we hit the main body where there were more houses, people came out to yell encouragement. Even after midnight, we had people still coming out on their piers and yelling at us. There was so much encouragement, and it was so appreciated," Arnold said.
The team began training for the relay in January, gradually building up from a 2-mile swim three days a week to a 10,000-yard relay that they completed in increments the Saturday before the event.
Two of the participants only took up swimming seriously in the past year. Swimming in open water and at night were also new experiences for the team.
Arnold said locals rallied around the swimmers as they dared to challenge themselves.
"It's intriguing for people to see local athletes who aren't professional swimmers, some of whom picked up swimming in the past year or so, having the courage to do something like this," Arnold said.