The Deadwood-Lead 76ers swim team have fielded a competitive swimmers for nearly six decades.

The team's first season was 1960. Jim Beman was the first coach.

"Over the years, we've had some pretty good swimmers," said longtime coach John Tridle. One of the swim team's alums, Kristine Brick, competed at Luther College, Iowa, for four years.

"The average is 35 to 40 kids," said Tridle. "The most kids I've ever had is 55. You get more kids out in Olympic years.

"Swimming is a team sport, but it's also an individual sport. Swimmers compete against their own time. It's a good sport, a lifetime sport and keeps kids active."

Competitive swimming started under the auspices of the Amateur Athletic Union. It is now under the guidance of USA Swimming.

"Rules have changed over the years and became more technical in strokes."

There are two seasons in swimming. The short course season starts in the fall and runs until March. The events are held in indoor 25-yard or 25-meter pools. The long-course season takes place in the summer months and is primarily held in 50-meter outdoor pools.

"We usually compete in 12 to 15 short course meets and six meets in the summer," said Tridle.

"There are time standards swimmers have to meet to qualify for State,"said Tridle. Events include various distances in freestyle, back stroke, butterfly, breast stroke, individual medley relays (one person each swims one, two or four lengths of the pool in order with the butterfly, back, breast and freestyle strokes) and freestyle relays.

"The kids surprise everyone, including themselves, with how well they swim at State," said Tridle. "One year we had 15 kids qualify for State."

While the Deadwood Rec Center was undergoing renovation, the 76ers practiced and had meets at the Lead YMCA. The Deadwood Rec and Aquatics Center renovation was completed in July of 2010.

"When they built this new building, it's pretty exciting for the kids to swim in their own pool," said Tridle."It's a home pool advantage." Deadwood-Lead hosts several indoor meets. We share the timing pads, computer modules and scoreboard for meets with Black Hills Gold (Spearfish)," said Tridle.

Some old trophies, stored away in boxes, are now on display in trophy cases at the Rec Center. "It was a joint effort of Jim and Bob Phillips and Dave Cote," said Tridle. "Jim and Bob repaired some of the broken trophies. Dave put wheels on the display cases."

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After 17 years as coach of the 76ers, Tridle said he is transitioning out of the role as head coach. "It's been fun for me, but it's time," said Tridle. "I really enjoy the kids, see them grow through the years and get better. It's been a successful program. I'll still be involved in it."

Melissa Johnson is the new head coach of the 76ers. "I'm very new to swimming," said Johnson. "I got involved because my kids were on the team.

"We have really good numbers this year. The kids are improving and getting faster. The cool thing about swimming is you set goals, and then you set new goals." The swimmers range in age from six to 19.

Ten 76ers have qualified for the State Short Course meet in Pierre on March 2-4. Deadwood-Lead state qualifers are Ethan Barkdull, Hunter Johnson, Tate Johnson, Maeve Campbell, Jocelyn Dirksen, Eli Runge, Aaron Olinger, Aspen Gilcrease, Ava Bertrand and Ben Wichterman.

"We have some good competitive swimmers" said Johnson."In some meets, we have to go against teams with over 200 swimmers.

“We're small, but mighty," he said.

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