Youngsters dive in with the Mt. Lebanon Piranhas and Aqua Club

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Dipping one's toe in the water as a Piranhas Swim Team member can be the kickoff to more than a day at the beach.

"Kids fall in love with the Aqua Club, which leads to year-round involvement with swimming and a lifelong love of the sport," Piranhas coordinator Jill Smolenski said.

Her daughter, Katie, progressed from "a kid splashing around in the water to being a swimmer," she said.

In her fifth year with the Piranhas, and an Aqua Club member, Katie, 11, of Mt. Lebanon, is interested in joining a school swim team this fall.

She will be aided in that effort by the Piranhas coaches, who are also high school team swimmers, and who serve as mentors to aspiring underclassmen.

The 210-youngster Piranhas, for ages 6 to 18, is a competitive swim program of the private, year-round Mt. Lebanon Aqua Club, which offers swim lessons, community programs, water safety instruction and more.

The Piranhas have been in existence for more than 20 years.

While the majority of participants are municipal residents, membership is open to anyone, and one need not belong to the Aqua Club.

The fee is $160 and covers all costs.

Youngsters must know freestyle and backstroke, and be able to demonstrate swimming 25 yards of each to join the Piranhas.

The six-week program runs June 14 through July 27 with weekday practices from 9:45 to 11 a.m. at the outdoor Mt. Lebanon Swim Center in the recreation center complex just off Cedar Boulevard.

There are seven optional meets on weekday evenings and Saturday mornings versus fellow swimmers from the South Hills Summer Swim League.

The remaining meets are 8:30 a.m. Saturday at home versus Scott, 6 p.m. Tuesday at Crafton and 6 p.m. next Thursday at South Fayette.

The meets are scored as teams and individuals, with ribbons for the winners.

Claudia Daley of Mt. Lebanon said since joining the Piranhas three years ago, her children Colin, 12, and Caitlin, 11, have enhanced their freestyle and backstroke skills while learning the butterfly, breaststroke, turns and dives.

Caitlin now competes in Aqua Club meets, while Colin takes part in Piranhas meets.

"I love giving the kids the opportunity to discover the sport. It is a lifelong passion of mine," Piranhas coach Kevin Hartbauer, 26, of Dormont, said.

Troy Weaver, 12, is in his fifth year with the Piranhas. The Mt. Lebanon youth likes swimming on a regular basis, which also keeps him in shape for playing hockey.

Erin Smolenski, 9, of Mt. Lebanon, enjoys being with the friends she made at Piranhas and the games played in the deep end, like the sharks and minnows chase game.

Hannah Sabram, 10, of Mt. Lebanon, said she likes swimming with her friends every day, while Caroline Hartung, 10, also of Mt. Lebanon, looks forward to the meets and steadily improving as a swimmer.

"I learned a lot," she said.

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Margaret Smykla, freelance writer: First Published July 19, 2012 9:30 AM


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