Brant Parker is more familiar than most with the Terry Sanford swim program. He now serves as head coach.
Parker swam for the Bulldogs from 2007-11, first under Mark Patton and then Mandy McMillian. After one year as an assistant coach, he took over as head coach this season and had high expectations for his Bulldog boys and girls teams.
“I never saw a group of young kids coming out of nowhere to meet expectations and actually push themselves,’’ he said.
The Bulldog boys won the recent Patriot Athletic Conference swim meet at Fayetteville State University’s pool while the Bulldog girls took second place.
“The whole team was committed,’’ Parker said. “We wanted to make sure everyone was good to go with their personal lives and with the sport.’’
For the Bulldog boys, junior David Li led the way in the conference meet.
He swam for the winning 200 medley relay team and won the 200 IM and the 100 butterfly.
“He was a big help,’’ Parker said. “He was one of our leaders.’’
Li started swimming recreationally in his family pool, then got serious about the sport about five or six years ago. He’s been swimming at Terry Sanford for the last three years. “It’s been an amazing experience, getting the chance to be involved with the team and getting to know them,’’ he said.
After qualifying for the state swim meet last season, Li said he came into this season with fairly high expectations for himself.
“I was very proud of our 200 medley relay,’’ he said.
The Bulldogs won with a time of 1:57.37, nearly eight seconds lower than their seeding time for the event.
“It was a big drop in time,’’ he said. “I was proud of myself for swimming the other events. There’s room for improvement, but I’m happy with where I am right now.’’
Both Parker and Li echoed the concern of other county swim coaches and swimmers that the key for growing swimming locally is to get access to a public swimming pool. Currently, the local swimmers have to practice and compete at FSU’s Capel Arena pool and are limited by the hours that pool is available.
Li is weary of hearing that a public pool in Fayetteville is just a dream.
“I don’t know why it’s a dream and why it can’t become a reality,’’ he said. “They shouldn’t feel it’s out of reach. It’s a reality we can work with in the very near future.
“Having a pool is necessary to further the swim program in Cumberland County.’’
Photos: L Brant Parker; R David Li