Doing what they can with what they got

It comes as neither a shock nor a disappointment that the Franklin High School boys' swim team won't be in the running for any championships this year. They opened the season with one team member, and closed it with three. But they got through it, and they got better, and it appears they got a little something extra to take away from it, something those powerhouse squads may never know.

Meet the lineup:

Jonathan Evans, the most experienced of the three.

"I swam since the time I was a toddler," Evans said. "Until seventh grade I took lessons, but I never swam competitively, so I took it up."

Garren Lockhart, the team's charter member.

"My parents had to kind of push me along," Lockhart said. "I'm a senior and I needed one more PE credit. I had tried baseball before, but I wasn't much of a baseball player. And fall sports were over, so I thought I'd try swimming."

Wing Wong, the hands-down favorite for the Most Improved award.

"Garren asked" him to join the team, Wong explained. "And my parents told me I should learn how to swim ... When our coach told us to go in the deep end, I was really scared, you know. I didn't want to drown."

Amber Davis, the coach.

"I heard there was an opening so I applied," said Davis, who turned 23 last week. "I had only one person at first ... I said, 'I don't care if you don't know how to swim, just come be on the team.' "

Davis, a Parks Department employee whose regular workdays are spent at Medgar Evers Pool, has been a swimming instructor since her teenage years, so making swimmers of the hydrophobic is nothing new to her.

"I start out with water adjustment, breathing, so they get used to putting their face in the water," she said. "Wing learned really well. He did exactly what I told him to do, so he learned how to swim quickly."

"She gave him real simple things to do, and after about the first week he was swimming short distances," Lockhart said. "By the last meets, he was swimming in them. I've never seen anyone learn that fast."

Lockhart and his teammates go back a ways.

"Jon and I met in sixth grade, and Wing and I have had classes together for four years now," he said. "Jon had been on the swim team before. I called and let him know we needed more people. Wing signed up because he likes sports. I told him we needed him."

So there they were, a team without enough members to host a meet, without enough members to even compete in many of the meet events. But they saw it through, as a sort of tagalong squad to the Garfield team.

"We kept a sense of humor about it, because we had no hope" of winning meets, Lockhart said. "We were such a small team. By the end of the season, other teams admired our dedication and courage to stick with it ... Amber never lost patience. She stuck with us and encouraged us to work harder. She always let us know she was proud of us, even when we didn't do well. She kept us motivated."

"I'm really proud of them for hanging in there," Davis said. "It's hard to show up with a team of three against of team of 30."

Wong, who is turning out for the lacrosse team as well, isn't threatening to set any new records in the pool, but at least he knows he isn't necessarily a goner should he fall off a dock. And he has Davis and his teammates to thank for that.

"It was a good way to learn to swim," Wong said. "You start small, in steps. She just told me what I should do, what strokes I should use and how to breathe. It helped me."

And then came the scary part.

"She walked alongside the pool," Wong continued. "The first time I went in the deep end, I panicked and sank eight feet. She threw in one of those things and I grabbed it ... I'm fine with the deep water now. I'm comfortable with it.

"She's not one of those coaches to push too hard. But she gives moral support, and she's a good swimmer, too."

Davis won't see any of her guys on next year's team. They're all seniors, and they're all headed off to university.

"It's a great fitness thing," Lockhart said. "We got about three months of personal training. We had nothing but time and the chance to get better. We all improved our strokes and our times. I got PE credit to get into great shape. Outside of school, I would have had to pay big money for that."

"We had fun," Wong said. "We got to know each other. But sometimes, when you can't win, it's not that great. Still ... "

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