We take a closer look at DIS' first-ever competitive middle and high school swim teams.
Getting teenagers out of bed at 6 a.m. is usually a tall order, but for the members of the Dallas International School swim team, it’s just part of their daily routine.
“Waking up early for practice is hard,” said 10th grader Isabella Castellanos. “But it’s also kind of fun because we get to see each other early and have some fun before school.”
Practice starts at 7 a.m. sharp. Coach Yann Pepin is always ready to start the morning session with his swimmers, and he takes particular joy out of coaching a team that is brand new. This will be the first season of competitive swim for DIS, both at the middle and high school levels.
“I think they are doing much better and they are much more engaged,” Pepin said of the high schoolers. “They are waiting for the first meet. With the middle school, they are much more focused having participated in a meet last week. It’s very important to see how they can be better during the practices.”
While the team itself is entering its first year of competition, many of the students have swum competitively outside of school.
“I used to swim super competitively for the Dallas Mustangs swim team,” said team captain Caroline Wolfe. “This was the first opportunity to get back into it, which was exciting.”
Sonja Greil, a 12th grade German native, had always hoped that DIS would start a swim team.
“I always wanted to do swimming,” Greil said. “But I never really had a chance in Germany. We didn’t have one. But then when I heard that Coach Pepin was starting one, I got really excited.”
Excitement abounds, but Pepin constantly stresses the importance of being focused and prepared for competition. The swimmers have bought into his program. Pepin said he’s realistic about how good the team can be in its first year of existence, but he always tells his swimmers that they’re building something bigger than themselves. Only students in grades 5-12 can try out for the team, but Pepin and DIS athletic director Jesse Llamas hope to expand the program to grades 1-4 as well by next fall.
“I think we have 90% participation since the beginning of the year in morning practices,” Pepin said. “It helps our team spirit. When you are a team, you want to be together and you want to be competitive. I want them to participate in the state meet. I don’t expect to win it all, but we are building a foundation for years to come.”
Pepin specifically wants the team to prioritize the relay races over the individual events.
“The most important thing to me is the relay, for both the girls and boys,” Pepin said. “It reflects the work of the team. You can always have one great swimmer in an individual event, but relays show you how good the team is.”
The concept of team over self is what unites these inaugural swim team members. They are working together to help build another strong program at their school.
“We aren’t trying to be better than each other,” Greil said. “We are swimming together.”