EAST PROVIDENCE — Having spent decades as the envy of most opponents, the East Providence High School swim teams have, unfortunately for the first time this winter, learned how the other half has lived low these many years.
The Townies were lucky enough to be one of just a handful of swimmers to have a pool on their campus. However, because the aging facility at EPHS was deemed unsuitable for use and no money to fix it was readily available, the Townies, like so many other teams around the state, had to find a new home outside of the school grounds.
They found one in city at the East Providence Boys and Girls Club, which has made its crowded natatorium available to the Townies and second-year head coach Claudia Ainsley to train and host Division II dual meets.
“I think it’s a big disservice to the kids and to the community,” second-year EPHS head coach Claudia Ainsley said of the EPHS pool closure. “A lot of the kids learned to swim there and then eventually came out for the team. Where are these kids going to learn to swim now? I know it’s about money, but East Providence was one of the very few schools in Rhode Island that had a pool. It had real value, not just for the team, but for the community. Everyone misses it, not just our kids.”
The marriage of the Townies and the Boys and Girls Club has been good so far, even as both East Providence boys’ and girls’ outfits rebuild. Neither entered mid-week with a team victory, the girls sitting at 0-6 and the boys at 0-5.
Though the Townies haven’t had a great deal of overall success in the win column, a number of athletes have offered up quality swims in each of their outings to date.
“We have a small amount of kids, not a very large group, but they’ve been improving with every meet. And we don’t lose too many seniors this year and we had some freshman come out, so I only see things as being positive,” Coach Ainsley said.
Senior Kelly Tiernan recorded a pair of wins (100 yard freestyle, 200 free) in East Providence’s opener against Cranston West. She was also a member of the Townies winning 200 free relay team along with Erica Dutra, Haley Costa and junior Monica Lethbridge, that latter of whom also won the 200 individual medley in the meet.
Dutra, a senior, and Lethbridge were likewise double winners for East Providence against Portsmouth. Dutra won both the 100 breaststroke and the 200 IM while Lethbridge won the 200 and 500 frees.
In addition, the trio of junior Michelle Phillips, junior Kara George and sophomore Jamielin Forsythe have twice been joined by different mates, seniors Ashtyn Paschoal and Haley Costa, in winning the 400 free relay in meets.
On the boys’ side, sophomore Kevin Lethbridge has led the locals, winning four individual and relay events. He has picked up solo wins in the 100 and 500 frees and has also swam legs for winning 400 free relays. Sophomore Aaron Amaral has added a solo win in the 200 IM. Junior Nick McBride has also been part of the Townies’ two wins in the 400 free relay.
The boys, in fact, had their best meet of the year earlier this week when they vied against Mount St. Charles at home. Amaral won two individual events (100 breaststroke in 1:13.61 and the 200 IM in 2:29.18) and was part of the winning 200 free relay with Lethbridge, McBride and Cam Torres (1:51.67). Lethbridge added a win in the 200 free (2:18.76) and Danny Castillo won the 100 butterfly (1:18.4).
Monica Lethbridge was a winner for the girls against the Mounties, taking the top spot in the 200 free (2:22.32) while Dutra added a victory in the breaststroke (1:24.02).
With just one more regular season dual meet remaining on their schedule at home against Westerly Thursday, Feb. 6, at 4 p.m., the Townies will quickly be turning their attention towards both the Division II and State Championship Meets set for Rogers Williams University on February 8 and Brown University on February 23, respectively.
“We have a couple of kids already qualified for states with a few more that are close to making it, so that’s good. And we have some kids and relays that could do well at the division meet, so I think things are good and moving in a positive direction,” Coach Ainsley added.