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Village Green Swim Team seeks ‘City Meet’ title repeat in Dinwiddie's 20th year in coaching

The Gators are looking to defend a championship from ’08.

But don’t mistake the Gators of Urban Meyer and his University of Florida football national champions with Anita Dinwiddie’s Village Green Swim Team Gators, defending “City Meet” champs.

Dinwiddie, entering her 20th season as a Gators coach, 19th as head coach, said 2008 “was the best season as far as swimming accomplishments” during her reign.

The Gators won the annual Greater Knoxville Area Interclub Swimming Association “City “Meet,” ages 5-18, after finishing 4-1 in League 1 regular season meets last season.

“That was our first win at City Meet. ... It came down to the end. Green Meadow gave us a run the whole way,” said Dinwiddie, also head coach at Knoxville Catholic. “It came down to the freestyle relays, and we just happened to beat them at that.”

This year's team, 213 strong, also went 4-1 in League 1 entering the 2009 City Meet Friday-Sunday, July 24-26, at The University of Tennessee.

Chances of a 2009 City Meet repeat? “I think it's going to be a bigger challenge this year than last year,” Dinwiddie said. “We'll come to play, but I'm not sure we can pull it off this year.”

Ben Lawson, third-year VG assistant coach and rising senior at Maryville College who swam with the Gators for 10 years while also swimming with Farragut High School's Admirals, said, “By far the best experience I've had at Village Green was last year winning the ‘City Meet,’ it was incredible. Everything fell into place. We were shocked when it happened.”

Robin Wells, VG assistant coach and former assistant at Webb School of Knoxville when it won a state championship in 2002, said her long-term association with Dinwiddie has been a

“great friendship that's lasted a lifetime together. And it's just been a great time to influence children in swimming and in all other areas of their lives.”

On the coaching end, Wells has been alongside Dinwiddie for 16 years. “I'm a teacher at Farragut Primary [School], so I'm pretty good at dealing with younger children,” she said. “And Anita, at that time, wasn't really great at that. She was a great swimmer but she didn't know how to kinda talk to kids and break skills down. And I would be her interpreter, so to speak.

“She would say to the kids, ‘O-K, you need to rotate your hands,’ and then she would look over at me and I'd kinda shake my head, and I would say it in a different way that they would understand, the little kids.

“So that's kinda how I got involved with the team.”

Over the years, “It's a great feeling to watch them mature,” Wells said. “Now we have kids coming back that we taught to swim and now we're teaching their children to swim. It's a great feeling and kind of an eerie feeling at the same time. You realize time is passing.”

Wells described her family as a “water family” who “evolved into” Village Green. Wells’ husband, Steve Wells, is a GKAISA board member and “City Meet” director.

Because of their different roles within GKAISA, Robin said she and Steve sometimes must “agree to disagree about things.”

Dinwiddie said, “Because having been there for so long, I've seen a lot of kids grow up in the last 20 years. So that's the part that I'm enjoying the most. That's the part that would be the hardest to walk away from.”

About Wells, Dinwiddie said, “Her first year, she started as the 8-and-under coach, that's more her speciality, the younger kids,” Dinwiddie said. “But we needed her more often, so she became full time.”

Looking back 20 years, Dinwiddie said, “When we started out we had about 40 kids. We've kinda grown every year since then. I guess in the middle-90s we went over a hundred.”

“Watching the Wells kids — Leslie, Zach, Skip and Abby — growing up, and they grow up and get married and have their own kids, so that's fun,” she added. “We always seemed to have a good group of girls that kinda grew up together once they were 13, get top three at City Meet.

“Jessie Howard, she was in that group, and Jordan Pasley. Of course, going back to Meg Anderton ... there's ton of ’em, I couldn't name ’em all. ... You meet a lot of great kids.”

Dinwiddie’s daughters are Anna, 16, who Dinwiddie described as a “good little breaststroker,” and Martha, 14, who mom said was part of a strong 13-14 Gators group this year. “They've all grown up together, it's fun to watch that group,” she said.

“When my kids both graduate from high school I think it might be time for a change for me,” Dinwiddie said. “But I've still got four more years, I'm hoping I can hang in there for that long.”

Other Gators assistants are Ashley Jahn and Drew Quinn.


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