SMRT swimmers shatter mark

City of Charleston Southern Marlins Racing Team coach Mike Lewellyn talks to volunteer Julie Moody about a project to cool the Martin Luther King Pool for summer swimming.

Swimming coaches stress going after personal records. And that’s exactly what the city of Charleston Southern Marlins Racing Team ( did over the weekend.

The team held a swimathon at the W.L. Stephens pool in West Ashley. The goal was to raise $20,000 to help purchase a chiller to help cool the water during the summer months at another facility the team uses, the Martin Luther King facility in downtown Charleston. SMRT uses the MLK pool, built during the 1960s, for at least two summer swim meets for kids from throughout the state.

By the end of the weekend, SMRT swimmers shattered their original goal with commitments of more than $22,000. They were well on their way toward a new goal of $25,000 by month’s end.

“It’s gone pretty darn well,” said SMRT head coach Mike Lewellyn.

About half of the team’s 140-plus swimmers, ages 6 through high school, swam two-hour shifts Saturday morning at the Stephens pool. Swimmers were in the water from 6 a.m. until noon and then enjoyed a party afterward.

The ultimate goal would be to raise $50,000 that would pay for a 25-ton cooling unit that would allow the MLK pool to be cooled to at least 85 degrees during the heat of the summer. Optimally, funds could be raised for a 50-ton unit that could cool the pool to 80 degrees. Lewellyn said it’s a project that can be done in phases, and the 25-ton chiller would be a good start.

Julie Moody, who is heading the fundraiser, said the water temperatures at the MLK pool can become unsafe during the heat of the summer, rising to more than 90 degrees.

“It’s not a healthy water temperature for any kind of swimming, especially someone doing any kind of lap swimming or training,” Moody said.

She said swimmers working out in a water temperature in the 90s could reach the point of heat exhaustion.

Emma Gourdie, a 14-year-old member of the SMRT team, said swimmers “get tired really fast” at the MLK pool during the summer.

“It’s really uncomfortable,” Gourdie said.

The team hopes matching funds could become available to facilitate the completion of the project. SMRT also will hold a golf tournament fundraiser in the spring and hopes to have at least one chiller in place by summer.