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Swim team is family at Twin Lakes

Decatur Metro ATL Tucker

Swim team is family at Twin Lakes

Coach Cat poses with the 2021 graduating class before the June 15 swim meet. From left, Maci Yeager, Joseph “JoJo” Miller, Mack Deaver, Coach Catherine Stansbury, Sam Hobbs, Alex Winsness, Abigail Starr and Lucy Zamorski. Photo by Debbie Miller.
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By Logan C. Ritchie, contributor 

DeKalb County, GA — Just down the road from David’s Produce Stand, where Decatur Dispatch and Tucker Times were sold together for eons, sits an unassuming swim club called Twin Lakes. It’s an area of DeKalb County that is not quite Decatur and not quite Tucker. There, the Twin Lakes Thunderbolts summer swim team practices daily and hosts meets on sweaty Tuesday nights every June, often under a threat of stormy skies and 100 percent humidity.

Although there was no 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, summer swimming leagues in Atlanta are like fireflies: thrilling but fleeting. Kids hop in the icy cold pool around May 1, and the season wraps up by the first week of July. It’s a community that thrives on kinetic energy, competition and chlorine.

Swim Team Coordinator Laurie Hobbs is the parent of two Thunderbolts alumni; Jack is attending Clemson University and Sam will attend the University of Georgia in the fall. Choking back tears, she talked about the connection that sustains swimmers who attend different public and private schools.

Practice at Twin Lakes pool. Photo by Logan C. Ritchie.

Hobbs said, “We don’t see each other a lot during the school year. But when we come back, all these kids are like magnets. They are drawn to their swim friends. They’re stuck, side-by-side, for the whole summer. They live for it.”

Coach Catherine “Cat” Stansbury keeps swimmers coming back summer after summer. Not only is she the athletic director at Atlanta Girls School, Coach Cat is celebrating her 28th year as head swim coach at Twin Lakes. She may never retire from swim team.

“Every year there’s another group of seniors, and I just think, ‘I have to see them though their senior year,’” Coach Cat laughed.

Thunderbolt seniors are celebrated with old swim team photos and biographies on a poolside board. Photo by Debbie Miller.

Gradates of the Thunderbolts can’t get enough of Coach Cat’s easy smile and calm presence at the pool. One coach, Victoria Thompson, returned this season before starting her medical school residency in Louisville. When we spoke at the pool, she was tending to former teammate Riley Hendrix who grew up swimming at Twin Lakes. Hendrix is a six-time Georgia 1-5A State Championship finalist and now swims for Tulane University in New Orleans, a Division I school.

Seasoned Thunderbolt Maci Yeager, celebrating 13 years on the team, said, “I’m always planning to come back. It’s my community.” Yeager will be a freshman at Elon College in the fall.

Rising college freshman Joseph “JoJo” Miller described Coach Cat as hardworking and never ruffled. “She’s always on top of things,” said Miller, who plans to attend the University of Kansas. Others from the class of 2021 agreed Coach Cat makes suggestions but ultimately, she allows the teen coaches to figure it out. Most of the seniors have been swimming at Twin Lakes since elementary school.

Joseph “JoJo” Miller dons a vintage Twin Lakes Thunderbolts t-shirt. Photo by Logan C. Ritchie.

The Twin Lakes Thunderbolts swim meets are being held virtually this year, especially because half the team is not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Each team swims at their own pool, then reports the times and a score is calculated to determine the winner. The final meet of the regular season is June 21, when Twin Lakes swims against Leafmore-Creek Park Club.

The next night, Twin Lakes seniors will meet up to decorate and deliver a poster for each swimmer who plans to attend the Atlanta Swim Association Championship meet at the Georgia Tech McAuley Aquatic Center on June 23. Swimmers wake early in the morning to find personalized signs cheering them on.

“It takes a village. We all realize that,” said Debbie Miller, parent of two swimmers at Twin Lakes.

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