Bainbridge has a strong swim program that continues through the years

Published 12:24 pm Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Bainbridge-Decatur County YMCA’s Barracuda swim team is continuing along standing tradition of strong summer swimming teams in Bainbridge.

For many years the city of Bainbridge ran the summer swim team program. One of the leading forces in the city’s swim team program was my dear friend William Widener who was inducted into the Decatur County Sports Hall of Fame in March.

William, a Bainbridge native who also did an outstanding job as Bainbridge High School band director, worked for the Bainbridge Recreation Department from 1953 to 1980. During those years he served the city as swim instructor, lifeguard, pool manager, water safety instructor, swim meet director and swimming and diving coach,

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For many years William coordinated, ran and coached the Inland Port Meet, the only event that was remaining from Inland Port Day festivities in the 1950’s.When the YMCA took over the swim program they continued a strong swim team program that has swimmers of various ages competing in meets throughout the summer.

Jennifer Clements, one the current Barracuda coaches along with Becki Miller, and is aquatics coordinator at the YMCA, is a former city of Bainbridge Barracuda swimmer.

Barracuda swimmers still practice at the city of Bainbridge’s Potter Street Pool. So far this season the Barracudas have performed well at meets in Tifton and Valdosta and Thomasville.

The Bainbridge Swim Team flourished under the leadership of Widener, various other coaches and former Bainbridge Leisure Services Department directors Fred Alford, Jack Palmer and Al Kelley.

Kirby Smart, a former Region 1AAAA defensive player of the year with the Bainbridge High School Bearcats, University of Georgia Bulldogs All Southeastern Conference defensive back and current defensive coordinator with the University of Alabama Crimson Tide who has been a part of national championship football staffs with Alabama and the Louisiana State University Tigers, was one of the outstanding swimmers in the city’s Barracuda program for a number of years.  What a great athlete and coach he has been.

In addition to football, Kirby was also an outstanding guard on coach Larry Slaughter’s Bearcats basketball team and an outstanding infielder on coach Stan Killough’s Bearcats baseball team at Bainbridge High School. He was also an outstanding academic student at Bainbridge High School and the University of Georgia where he made the Southeastern Conference’s All Academic Team.

Bainbridge summer youth swim teams, whether under the leadership of the Bainbridge Leisure Services Department of the Bainbridge-Decatur County YMCA, have provided wholesome competitive activities for young swimmers over a period of many years and that is a credit to both the city and the YMCA. What a great legacy that is.

On a personal note, it has been my privilege and pleasure to cover the summer swim programs for this fine newspaper for 44 years and it never ceases to be exciting.