Under the guidance of head coach Kaitlyn Woods, the county developed a program for all five public high schools to train together with strong results. There are now 52 Paulding county swimmers with 24 individuals qualifying for the Georgia High School Association swimming and diving championships which will begin Feb. 6 at the Recreation Center Aquatic Center on the campus of Georgia Tech.
“Since we’ve merged together, I’ve seen faster times and been more competitive,” Woods said. “Seeing the program grow has been amazing.”
The swimmers practice together four nights a week with each school having a separate assistant coach. In competitions, the swimmers represent their own schools.
“It’s been fun getting the schools together for training and meeting new people,” said Coats, who will participate in the 50- and 500-meter freestyle races along with relays at the state meet before attending Armstrong State in the fall.
Wilks said, “I like our program because our school teams aren’t big but we have a large team environment.”
“It was difficult in our first year but we’re better now through healthy competition,” she said.
Wilks, who will attend Rollins College this fall, plans to swim in the 100-meter breaststroke, in which she’s placed second and third in the previous two state meets, and the 100-meter butterfly.
Many of the elite year-round swimmers such as Peters, Coats and Wilks don’t participate in the evening practice sessions due to work with their club teams. However, each member assists teammates in different ways as captains.
“I’ll show my teammates techniques and also observe practice to assist coaches,” said UGA-commit Peters, seeking to repeat as state champion in the 500-meter freestyle while also swimming in the 200-meter freestyle.
Woods, also a special education teacher at Dallas Elementary School, has high hopes for her swimmers.
“I’d love for our relay teams to make the finals and expect several individuals like Stephanie and Taylor to compete for state titles.”