Piranhas Swim Team at Good Shepherd Pool

Front: Kaden Powell and Machi Martin; back: Coach Eric Wendorf, Leann Podeyn, Catie Ferrari, Billy Fetzer, Taylor Scalf, Lauren Martin and Coach Colin Hardy

By Caren Burmeister
Resident Community News

The roar of laughter and splashing water now echoes from the walls enclosing the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd pool.
A few years ago, the pool at 1100 Stockton St. nearly shut down. But it’s been an oasis of activity since the Piranhas Swim Team came on board a few months ago.
Built in 1923, Ninah Cummer sponsored the pool’s construction for community recreation.
It’s where Richard and Orchie Lea Podeyn swam when they were growing up in the 1970s and ‘80s. They still live in the house where Orchie Lea was raised, just two blocks from the pool.

“We would come on Saturdays and wait to get in,” she said, recalling it only cost about 25 cents back then. “That was a lot of fun for me and my girlfriends.”
The couple recently watched their 14-year-old daughter, LeAnn, practice with other
members of the Piranhas team.

“We’re just glad they’re here,” Podeyn said. “They support each other. It’s a good little group.”
The Piranhas, a year-round competitive swim team that participates in USA Swimming governed meets, moved to the pool in October 2012. The team is grateful for its new home.

“The church accepted us with open arms,” said Piranhas Head Coach Eric Wendorf.
In the last year or so the pool ministry – jokingly referred to as Church of the Good Swimming Pool – has experienced a resurrection of sorts.
Pool members, volunteers, church staff and a new pool director, Dave Cullen, pushed to revive the pool and its place in the community. They raised the pool’s temperature to 82 degrees to make it more comfortable, added lane markers and a handicap chair lift and improved the locker rooms.
Colin Hardy, the Piranhas other head coach, said the pool hasn’t had a competitive swim team for decades and there are no other
competitive swim teams in the Riverside area.

Having moved from the Cecil Aquatic Center on Normandy Boulevard, the Piranhas team is rebuilding, too. It once had 20 young swimmers. It now has seven members and room for more. The team practices Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights.

The new Piranhas team competed for its first time at the JaxParks Swim Classic against clubs from Bolles and Episcopal high schools on Jan. 19-20. It’s preparing for the Daytona Beach Winter Open in Port Orange, Fl. on Feb. 2-3.

During practice, Hardy and Wendorf evaluate hand and body positions and individual strokes and make suggestions. Swimmers can make great strides from small adjustments.
Catie Ferarri, 15, recently shaved a minute-and-a-half off her time in the 500-yard freestyle.

“I was actually very surprised,” said Ferarri, who came in 16th in the JaxParks Swim Classic. “I came to practice and I worked hard.”
Team members not only learn sportsmanship, confidence and teamwork but can become certified lifeguards or swim instructors, accomplishments that can help them earn community service points and, sometimes, paid jobs, Hardy said. The training may also help them get college scholarships.

“They do it to diversify their backgrounds,” Hardy said. “They’re good kids who want to compete and get better.”
Church of the Good Shepherd is fully behind the team, Hardy said, noting that one member donated $2,000 to fund Piranhas team scholarships.

The Piranhas team is also sponsored by Jumping Fish, a non-profit founded by Jim Alabiso, who swam a 3.5-mile section of the St. Johns River in 2011 to promote the river’s beauty.
Alabiso introduced Hardy to Wendorf, the Good Shepherd pool lifeguard who won bronze medals at the 2009 World Master’s Games in Sydney, Australia. Hardy and Wendorf had both dreamed of starting a swim team someday. With the pool, church support, and their collective years of certifications and high school team coaching, it became a reality.
“We’re a young team and we have a lot of fun,” Wendorf said.

How to Get Involved

The Pool: The 80-by-30 foot swimming pool is considered a meter short course. It has a depth of 4 to 11 feet. Swimming lessons, lifeguard training, arthritis therapy and aqua aerobics classes are offered throughout the week. Passes are available on a daily, monthly, quarterly, semi-annual and annual basis. For more information, call (904) 387-4298 or visit
www.goodshepherd23.org and click on pool.

There is a $100 registration fee and an $80 monthly fee to join the team ($60/month for two or more children), which is open to youth ranging from grades K through 12. Sponsorships are available. To sponsor or participate in the Piranhas Swim Team, visit www.piranhasswimming.com, or call Coach Colin Hardy at 904-349-0972 or email [email protected]

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