deland high school wim team decaln pickren
JUST KEEP SWIMMING — DeLand High School swimmer Declan Pickren makes his way across a pool with a freestyle stroke. Swim meets aren’t graded based on completion times, but in placement. Coaches, however, keep track of swimmers’ completion times so they can help them hone their skills.

Smashing the records

DeLand High School’s swim teams set records this season: Both the boys’ and girls’ teams are undefeated at every meet they’ve gone to. This marks the first time both DHS swim teams have finished their season undefeated.

For the seniors, this is the crowning achievement of their high-school athletic careers.

“It’s a unique group of kids that comes around once every so often,” boys’ swim coach Kati Kaye told The Beacon. “You just ride the wave when you have that group; enjoy it and let them lead.”

Kaye has coached the DeLand High School boys’ swim team for seven years. She’s also the coach for the West Volusia Killer Whales Swim Club, the local year-round team not connected to any school.

The DHS boys’ swim team set a record for winning every swim meet last year, but this year both the girls’ and boys’ teams were undefeated, setting a brand-new record.

Both teams also took home big victories at the Spruce Creek High School-hosted Record Breaker event, as well as at the 5-Star meet competing against schools from across Volusia County.

ALL TOGETHER NOW — The DeLand High School boys’ and girls’ swim teams smile for a photo with their boys’ coach Kati Kaye, at far right on the top row, and girls’ coach Jeanne Jendrzejewski. Together, the teams boast eight graduating seniors: two boys and six girls. While they’ll be losing some great swimmers, Kaye said, she’s thinking the teams can carry their winning momentum into next year’s season.

What makes these teams so special?

“Their camaraderie,” Kaye answered. “They are such a connected and bonded group of swimmers, boys and girls.”

Senior Michael Mercado has been on the team since he was a sophomore at DeLand High, and his only regret is not joining sooner. It’s not just the team, he said, but the coaches, too.

“It really helps when you have a coach who pushes you like that,” Mercado said. “Talent is a big thing, for sure, but it’s the overall vibe and attitude of the team why it’s so successful.”

Mercado, who plans to go to college, isn’t quite sure where he’s going when he graduates, but he knows he’s going to keep swimming.

“Swimming gives you a kind of discipline that not many other sports give you, because it takes so much to get in a pool, whether it’s 94-degree water in the summer, or 70-degree water in the winter,” Mercado said. “It takes a lot to get in the pool and push that hard to achieve your goals every day while holding your breath.”

CHAMPS — DeLand High School senior Michael Mercado swims across a pool with his best butterfly stroke. Mercado joined the DeLand High swim team as a sophomore, and one of his biggest regrets of high school, he said, is not joining the team sooner.

Senior Emory Miles has been on the swim team since her freshman year. This year, she was captain of the girls’ swim team, and she said the season was incredible.

“I’m filled with pride for all my teammates who continue to excel both in the pool and in their sportsmanship,” Miles said. “This team means so much to me, and I’m forever grateful for the meaningful moments and friendships it has offered me.”

When she graduates in 2023, Miles hopes to go to college to pursue a career in trauma surgery.

While there are no more swim meets for the DHS swim teams this year, the teams will compete in the district competition Oct. 22 and the state competition Oct. 29.

DIVE! — Members of the DeLand High School girls’ swim team take a dive into the pool at the DeLand Family YMCA at 761 E. International Speedway Blvd. in DeLand. The girls’ team finished their season undefeated, a first in DeLand High School’s history.


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