SEBRING – The Highlands Hurricanes Swim Team dove right into the annual swim-a-thon to raise money for their squad on Thursday morning at the Highlands County YMCA.

The swimmers completed 200 laps, which equals 5,000 yards or 2.8 miles. The participants had 2 hours to complete this challenge.

Tyler Baker finished first with an unbelievable time of 1:09:47 beating his previous record by five minutes. Joshua Farless came in a close second with an impressive time of 1:14:26.

“This is our annual fundraiser for the Highlands Hurricanes Swim team,” said head coach Marvin Wolfe. “The swimmers are challenged to swim 5,000 yards in less than two hours or as many lengths of the pool as they can in two hours. Donations are typically either lump sum or per length of what the swimmer might swim. We do this every Fourth of July weekend. We like to keep with the Fourth of July celebration. Today we have 17 swimmers, the most we have ever had is 27, the age’s range from 9 years old up to 62. We have tri-athletes that are also participating with us today. The goal today is just to have fun. This is quite the challenge it is almost the equivalent of a 5K. This is a challenge so they can actually see what they can do.”

The swimmers enjoyed the challenge.

“This was difficult and just really hard but I finished it,” said 14-year-old Tyler Baker. “I wanted to finish as close to an hour as I could and I did that. I beat my previous record by five minutes. I have been on the team for two years but I have been swimming since I was little. I want to be on this team to get back into shape. I really enjoy this and I knew Coach Wolfe is a good coach. I knew he could really fix me up and he did. My favorite event is the freestyle. I really like the distance event. My team is great and they have a lot of experience and they really help me out. I have learned to keep my mouth shut and to keep trying and never give up.”

Gigi Sutherland took third place with an outstanding time of 1:20:20 and Brice Creel was close behind with a notable time of 1:21:19. Jaime Creel rounded out the top five with a final time of 1:35:20.

“My goal was to complete 100 laps,” said 9-year-old Connor Darrow. “It felt great to accomplish that. This is my first-year swimming for the Hurricanes. I love swimming and I love being on this team. I really like my coach. I am learning a lot. My favorite swim is the 200-freestyle. Today was a lot of fun and I made a lot of friends.”

Thirteen of the 17 participants were able to complete the challenge and two of the participants were just 600 yards short of completing the challenge. 56-year-old Lawrence Luepschen came in sixth with an incredible time of 1:37:39. The oldest competitor is Chuck Best and he completed the challenge with an outstanding time of 1:41:37 placing him in seventh on the leader board.

“This was a fun event,” said 17-year-old Gigi Sutherland. “My goal was to not come in last and I placed in third. This is my fourth year participating in this event and I get better each year. My favorite part is hanging out with the other swimmers and my friends. My favorite event is 100-breast stroke. My team is really good. This is my favorite team that I have been on and my coach is great. He is the best coach ever. I have been learning a lot of technique and we have been endurance training. He helps us with our individual stroke. I think I have been doing okay so far this season.”

Photos:

RUTH ANNE LAWSON/CORRESPONDENT

Highlands Hurricanes Swim Team members Josh Farless, left, and Tyler Baker cruise through the water during Thursday’s swim challenge at the Highlands County YMCA.

COURTESY PHOTO

Front row from left: Debi Marine, Wyatt Lundy, Connor Darrow, Jamie Creel, Kenna Crawford, Kaedyn Crawford, Leila Henry, Olga Luepschen, Brice Creel. Back row from left: Chuck Best, Lawrence Luepschen, Kim Darrow, Jan Shoop, Colt Bennett, Josh Farless, Gigi Sutherland and Tyler Baker took part in Thursday’s swim challenge at the Highlands County YMCA.

RUTH ANNE LAWSON/CORRESPONDENT

Nine-year-old Connor Darrow took part in Thursday’s Highlands Hurricanes swim challenge at the Highlands County YMCA.

RUTH ANNE LAWSON/CORRESPONDENT

Gigi Sutherland does the backstroke during Thursday’s swim challenge at the Highlands County YMCA pool.

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