Coming Up

What: Coastal Carolina Aquatic Association championships

When: 3:30 p.m. Sunday; 5:40 p.m. Monday; 5:50 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Jewish Community Center, 1645 Raoul Wallenberg Blvd.

Notes: Approximately 1,100 swimmers from 23 teams will compete. Coosaw Creek has won the championship the last two seasons. Information at swimccaa.com.

This has been a special season for the Northbridge Terrace Killer Whales as the young swimmers head into the City Swim Meet that begins Sunday at the Jewish Community Center pool.

The smallest team in the top division of the Coastal Carolina Aquatic Association has been celebrating 50 years as a swim club. The team’s swim caps this year show a killer whale jumping through the number 50.

Ask anyone involved in swimming what makes the summer swim programs special and you likely will get the same answer — friendships forged through the bond of community. It certainly is the case for the Killer Whales.

Northbridge Terrace coach Mike Walsh has been a part of the community for most of those years. He’s coached roughly 4,000 swimmers, most of whom he taught to swim. One of those young swimmers was Katy Motsinger, whom Walsh said was the best he had coached.

Motsinger starred for Northbridge Terrace, the Charleston Southern Marlins Racing Team and West Ashley High School before attending the University of Denver on a full swimming scholarship. Motsinger, 24, swam in the 2008 Olympic Trials and hopes to do so again after recovering from shoulder surgery.

“That’s where it started,” said Motsinger, who now coaches swimming in Frisco, Texas. “I started doing swim lessons at 4 and 5 years old with Mike, did one or two years where I did lessons and the swim team, then swam with them every summer until I graduated from high school and went off to college.”

Motsinger recalled that she spent all her free time in the summer months at the pool until Walsh would send her home. As she became more proficient, Motsinger transitioned into club swimming but continued to swim with Northbridge during the summer season. The neighborhood children attended a variety of schools, both public and private, but the swim team brought them all together for the summer months.

“It was where I had grown up with all my friends. I got a great foundation for my strokes and my swimming career,” she said.

Motsinger is a second-generation Northbridge Terrace swimmer. Her mother, Jeannine Funderburk Motsinger, grew up in the neighborhood and swam for Northbridge Terrace in the late 1970s, though her swimming years slightly preceded the arrival of Walsh as coach.

Jeannine Motsinger said her best memories of swimming were the friendships she forged on the team.

“We would have a swim meet and then go out somewhere afterward. The City Meet was always a lot of fun because everyone was together,” she said, adding that Walsh has continued that sense of community.

“He expects a lot out of them. They all grow up respecting him and learn to be very good swimmers,” she said.

Walsh is a physical education teacher at Orange Grove Elementary Charter School. In addition to coaching, he also serves as pool manager and teaches lessons at Northbridge Terrace. It was the community that brought the Walsh family to Northbridge.

“We decided to move here because all (his son) Ben’s friends were here. The pool has been for all the kids. It’s great for neighborhood events, the swim team and events we do throughout the year,” Walsh said.

Walsh said not only is there a lot of camaraderie among the youth swimmers, but also among the CCAA league coaches.

Keeping kids involved in the sport has been no problem, Walsh said. His son swam 15 years for Northbridge. This year’s team of 117 has two seniors who are completing their 14th season swimming for Northbridge Terrace.

The team practices once a day. The week leading up to the City Swim Meet was Killer Whale Week with a different activity every day, cheerleading night, a team breakfast, a game day and a banquet.

“We know it’s not just the swimming that keeps kids coming back, it’s the social thing,” Walsh said. When Motsinger began coaching Northbridge Terrace, the team swam in the neighborhood’s original pool, built in 1960. It was trapezoid shaped, 20 yards long with four lanes. In 2003 a new 25-yard pool was built.

He was hired in 1978 and the team went from 1-6 to 6-1 and finished third in the City Meet.

“And the rest is history,” he said.

A special history filled with fond memories of exciting swim meets and wonderful friendships forged at the pool.