By Adam Grobman
In tribute to the waterfowl found along the Susquehanna River, the swim team nesting in the Harrisburg JCC is now known as the Harrisburg Herons.
Formerly known as the Sharks, the swim team welcomes grade school kids K-12 to learn, develop, and compete under the JCC banner. After focusing on virtual meets last season, Coach MarkJoseph (MarkJoe) Kasian says that the team will dive in for a hybrid schedule that runs from November thru March.
“We’re on pace to have at least one virtual meet per month starting in November,” MarkJoe says, noting the tight-knit community of JCC swim teams that began innovating together in response to the pandemic. “We’ll also swim in-person for three meets with other JCCs, including the Championships on March 6 at Cherry Hill.”
Preparations for the season are underway, with a few weeks of practices leading up to the internal team time trials on Sunday, October 24th – a race to determine “seed times” and matchups when facing off in meets with other teams.
“The goal is to improve on that time throughout the season,” Markjoe says. “This is a team where no matter what level of swimmer you are, you’ll have a place and a home. It’s a team for the love of swimming.”
MarkJoe says that he most enjoys seeing the swimmers from the community grow and develop throughout the season.
“There are times in swimming where an athlete might have an issue they have to overcome,” he says. “We teach techniques and fundamentals – and when you see it ‘click’ for the swimmer, it’s an amazing thing. I am here guiding, but they’re the ones doing the work.”
The coach says that in addition to growth in the water, the team will also participate in dry-land practices for cross-training. MarkJoe is also working to coach the kids in giving back to the community.
“In November, we’ll have our swim-a-thon fundraiser,” he says, noting that half of the money raised will be donated to the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, an organization that works to protect the waterway where the eponymous “heron” is found.
Another future project is a waterway cleanup with older swimmers on the team. “I want to make the JCC Swim Team a well-rounded program,” MarkJoe says. “Beyond competition, sports are about being able to give back and be part of a community. When you compete, you don’t always win nor have your best swim. But if you have a community and a team around you, that helps to give you support.”