By GERRY STEELE
When the Baker High School swim team takes to the pool, it's like a family gathering for a handful of the Bulldogs.
Four sets of siblings dot this year's Baker roster.
Jake and Cameron McAlister, Sara and Kim Countryman, Tom and Jami Chance and Logan and Marissa Ermovick all have spent time in the pool at Sam-O Swim Center for the Bulldogs this season.
Seniors Jake McAlister and Sara Countryman and junior Logan Ermovick are the veterans of the group. The others are either in their first or second season with the Bulldogs.
The McAlister brothers
Jake, a senior, and Cameron, a freshman, both started swimming when they were eight years old.
andquot;I got into swimming because of Jake,andquot; Cameron said, smiling at his older brother.
Jake said he started swimming by taking swimming lessons at a young age.
andquot;Almost since before I could walk my mom had me in swimming,andquot; Jake said.
In fact, he remembers getting swim lessons before he was old enough to meet the age requirement.
andquot;I've been swimming since before I was three years old,andquot; Jake said. andquot;At the time you weren't supposed to be able to start taking lessons before you were three, but the people giving the lessons didn't know I was younger until after the lessons were over.andquot;
Jake said he took to the water so readily that he actually jumped levels in the process.
andquot;I started jumping levels early. I skipped Level 3, then was only in Level 4 for a few days. Then I went through Levels 5 through 7. In fact I completed Level 7 twice,andquot; he said.
andquot;I was so far ahead of the other swimmers that we then had to figure out where I could go next. They told me that I could become a junior lifeguard or join the swim team. So I did both.andquot;
Jake said that at that point many of the swimmers were older than he was, and better swimmers. But that didn't deter him.
andquot;There were a lot of kids who were better than me, but being competitive like I am, I was always trying to beat them, and I got better,andquot; he said.
Jake has been a member of the high school swim team for four years, although he sat out last season, as well as his junior seasons of football and baseball, after undergoing knee surgery. He said that almost did him in.
andquot;I hated it,andquot; he said. andquot;I couldn't stand being at the pool, at a football game, or at a baseball game. I just wanted to be on the field, and not being able to just drove me crazy.andquot;
Cameron got started swimming because of his brother. It helps him stay in shape for cross country and track and field.
He played soccer, basketball and tennis during his earlier years, then decided to turn out for cross country this past fall.
andquot;I liked running distances, and I think I will do long distances in track this spring too,andquot; he said.
andquot;All my sports are 'cardio' sports,andquot; Cameron said.
andquot;The running got my legs strong for swimming. And swimming will keep me in shape for track.andquot;
Cameron credits his brother for providing support.
andquot;Jake has always been the more athletic one,andquot; he said. andquot;But in club swimming there was no other guy my age so I wasn't really pushed. Jake's always helped me. I've always wanted to be as good as him.andquot;
The Countryman sisters
A lot of people mistake Sara and Kim Countryman as twins, they look so much alike. But, in reality, Sara is a senior and Kim a sophomore. Sara has been on the Baker squad four years, and Kim two.Sara said she started swimming her freshman year in high school.
andquot;One of my friends was on the team and I came with her,andquot; Sara said. andquot;I didn't even have a towel or a suit, but she had an extra one I used. I really liked it and swam ever since.andquot;
Like Cameron McAlister, Kim started swimming because of her older sibling.
andquot;I kind of started doing it because Sara did it,andquot; she said.
Kim is currently sidelined with a broken wrist suffered during a sledding outing during the Christmas break.
The sisters said several of their friends and teammates suffered sledding injuries over the break.
Both athletes play on the BHS soccer and tennis teams.
andquot;I think running in soccer helps strengthen my legs for swimming, and my arms for tennis,andquot; Kim said.
andquot;Swimming helps me get into shape for tennis,andquot; Sara added.
Like most siblings there is a rivalry at times between the sisters.
andquot;There might have been a little rivalry last year,andquot; Sara said.
andquot;We were in the 100 freestyle together, and I won,andquot; Kim said, grinning at her sister.
Sara doesn't plan to continue competitive swimming in college.
andquot;I don't think I'll have a lot of time for it. Maybe I'll swim recreationally, but nothing that's time consuming,andquot; she said.
Neither sister is too concerned with qualifying for the state meet.
andquot;I'm more of a recreational swimmer,andquot; Sara said.
andquot;I won't be able to think about it because of my broken wrist,andquot; Kim said. andquot;My goal is to get there the next two years.andquot;
Taking a Chance, or two
Tom Chance, a sophomore, and Jami Chance, a freshman, are fairly new to the BHS team, and to swimming.
andquot;I swam a little bit with the Baker Swim Club,andquot; Tom said.
andquot;This is my first year,andquot; Jami said.
Josh Henderson, also a member of the high school team, is the brothers' uncle.
andquot;My uncle talked to me about joining the swim team, and I liked it,andquot; Tom said. andquot;This is my third year of swimming. I wrestled for four years before that.andquot;
Like his brother, Jami got started on the wrestling mats.
andquot;I was a wrestler from third through eighth grade,andquot; he said. andquot;Then I decided I wanted to try something new.andquot;
Since both swim the 50 and 100 freestyle and compete on the 200 and 400 relays, there is something of a rivalry.
andquot;We do tease each other,andquot; Tom said.
andquot;The first time we swam the 100 together Jami was right on my tail. I decided to quit doing flip turns to see if I could pull away from him.
andquot;Swimming is both competitive and fun,andquot; Tom said.
andquot;It's less of a team sport and more individual,andquot; Jami said.
Both swimmers also enjoy other sports.
andquot;Baseball is a big deal for me,andquot; Tom said.
He started in Little League ball with his uncle, and continued in Babe Ruth ball during his middle school years. This past season he played in the high school program.
andquot;Wrestling is probably my favorite sport,andquot; Jami said. andquot;It takes a lot of endurance and strength. I started swimming because I wanted to try something new.andquot;
Logan, a junior, is in his third season on the Baker team. Marissa, a freshman, is swimming for the first time.
andquot;I like the 200 freestyle relay,andquot; Logan said. andquot;Swimming is such an individual sport.andquot;
andquot;I like the 50 backstroke because I can swim with most of my friends,andquot; Marissa said.
Both siblings also play on the Baker soccer teams.
andquot;I like soccer,andquot; Logan said. andquot;I do swimming to stay in shape for soccer. In swimming you use all of your muscles, in soccer just your legs.andquot;
The Ermovicks said they don't have that much of a rivalry in the pool.
andquot;We're not that competitive against each other because we swim in different events,andquot; Logan said.