The Piranhas Swim Team that meets Friday evenings at Mount Pleasant’s R.L. Jones Center is not made up of the fastest young swimmers. Their strokes are not the most polished. But you would be hard-pressed to find a more enthusiastic group of swimmers.
“These kids are practicing for the Summer Special Olympics. It’s a neat, neat program,” said Jeff Garrard, aquatics coordinator for the Mount Pleasant Recreation Department.
Garrard said the Piranhas Swim Team grew out of a summer camp program that lasted a week. Realizing there was nothing for the young athletes after the weeklong camp, the Mount Pleasant Recreation Department started the team.
Initially, there were only six or seven young swimmers, but by the end of the summer, it had grown to 15 with four going to the Summer Special Olympics in Columbia. Now, as many as 30 swimmers of all ages show up for weekly practices.
One of the team’s outstanding swimmers is Brianna Leask, a 17-year-old junior at Bishop England and a daughter of Noah and Lisa Leask. Brianna’s sisters, Logan, 14, and Peyton, 8, are volunteers with the Piranhas and swim for the Mount Pleasant Swim Club. They also are members of the RiverTowne Redfish Swim Team.
“It’s hard to find an atmosphere where (Brianna) can feel part of a team,” said Lisa Leask. “This program, and we have been participating for eight years, has been amazing. She gets to meet a whole bunch of kids in the Mount Pleasant community and also go to Columbia to compete in the Special Olympics Summer Games and meet kids from across the state. It’s really been a blessing to be part of this program.”
Leask said Brianna has won several gold medals, along with some silver and bronze, in the Special Olympics. And she has swum relays with Logan in which they have won gold. The 50-meter freestyle is her favorite event.
“We are so grateful to be able to come and spend time with this program,” Leask said. “Shelli Davis and Jeff Garrard work to put together a lot of swim events in addition to the swim team. We have socials. And the program is run by volunteers. The coaches that work with this team don’t get paid to do this.”
Garrard said the swimmers must be 8 or older to compete in the Special Olympics. Mount Pleasant holds a swim meet in April to prepare the young swimmers for Special Olympics in Columbia.
Mount Pleasant Piranhas swimmer Brianna Leask (right) and sister Logan Leask, a Piranhas volunteer, are joined by Gov. Nikki Haley after Brianna participated in the 2012 Special Olympics at Fort Jackson. Leask won a gold medal in the 25-yard freestyle.×
Logan Leask, whose sister, Brianna, swims for the Mount Pleasant Piranhas, is a volunteer with the team that is training for the Special Olympics this summer in Columbia.×