Body paint may often be associated with football games, but in recent weeks it’s been showing up somewhere else — the Winona Senior High School (WSHS) swimming pool. Cameron Riggs, Keir Kristiansen, Taylor Olson, E.J. Kohner, along with a handful of students from Cotter Schools, paint letters and names on their chests and backs and cheer on the combined WSHS and Cotter girls' swim team.
(From left) Sam Strukens, Riley Jorgenson, Hodd Gorman, E.J. Kohner, Tyler Suman, and Cameron Riggs pose for photos after a girls’ swim meet.
Olson, a senior on the boys' swim team, explained that some of their friends on the girls' swim team were disappointed about the lack of support at swim meets.
The idea started at sectionals last year, but really took flight this school year. Not only do they cheer on the girls, they’ve incorporated skits into the events as well.
“We figured why not show a little support and go overboard with some body paint,” Olson explained.
The parents enjoy the enthusiasm the boys bring to the sport. Winona Middle School Principal Mark Anderson, who attended senior night for the girls' swim team, noted that it was a great way to show Winhawk pride.
Parents often talk about the cheering section and take a lot of pictures, Olson said.
“Even the opposing teams will take pictures of us,” Kristiansen added with a chuckle.
The cheer section — swimmers themselves — understand the desire to interest more people in the sport of swimming.
“On the professional level [swimming] is not as recognized, so it’s not as recognized on the high school level, as well,” Kohner explained.
“You get a lot of attention during the Olympics and that’s it,” Olson said in agreement.
The last home meet was the most fun for the group, as spectators packed the gym to join them in cheering for the meet. They all jumped in the pool with the girls after the meet was over, doing penguin slides off the deck, Riggs said.
Kristiansen highlighted the welcoming environment of competitive swimming. “There isn’t the hatred for the other team, like some sports,” Kristiansen said.
The boys agreed that although swimming is competitive, it’s also an individual competition, as the swimmers are ultimately competing against their previous times.
“Whenever you go to any sporting event, the announcers always stress the importance of sportsmanship in any high school sport, and of all the sporting events that I’ve been to, I think that swimming is the only one that actually does that,” Riggs said.
Riggs added that although the Winona basketball teams may have one of the best cheering sections in the Big 9, some of the fans can get a little too rowdy and antagonistic with the opposing team.
The members of the girls' swim team find the added support very helpful. Raizel Campbell, a senior on the team, said she enjoyed the cheering section a lot — “it’s really motivating.”
The swimmers hope that the excitement they brought to the girls' meets will carry over to the boys' season, which starts in November.