The swimmer from the Takoma Park pool team pictured on the front of the District Weekly last week was incorrectly identified. His name is Nathaniel Parson. (Published 8/23/90)

A swim team at the District's Takoma Park pool that has been competing against the region's more established private clubs in the suburbs remains undefeated after two seasons, an achievement coaches hope will inspire other city teams.

"We've always wanted to swim against the {suburban} counties," said Lorn D. Hill, aquatics chief of the District's Recreation Department. The Takoma team "is successful in reaching our goals and keeping swimming flourishing."

The city's competitive swim program boasted weekly meets involving 2,500 young people in the 1970s, but took a nosedive in the early 1980s and finally died two years ago. The Takoma Park team was formed of diehards who did not want to stop competing and whose parents did not want them to. Their coach signed them up for the Prince-Mont league of 36 teams in suburban Maryland.

Since then, keeping even non-competitive swimming afloat in the District has been tough, Hill said. While suburban leagues were wrapping up six-week seasons, the District held its only official meet of the summer last Saturday at Fort Lincoln Pool.

The meet, which was open to any District resident 18 or younger, attracted about 100 swimmers, compared with 600 in past years, Hill said.

"We don't have the kids any more. The population has changed and the attitudes have changed," said Hill, a 26-year veteran of the District's aquatics program. "You don't have the parents' support. The economics have changed and you mostly have two working parents."

But Takoma overcame the obstacles. Attracting children from Washington Highlands, Capitol East Natatorium and Wilson High School pools, the team has about 60 enthusiastic members ages 5 to 18, plus considerable parent support.

"We're trying to build a comprehensive program that will provide a recreational outlet, bringing in kids," said coach Roger McCoy. "We believe in going not just the extra miles, but the extra 15 miles if necessary. The kids realize that and give us a good performance."

McCoy said he hopes to use Takoma's success as a prototype to form other teams and rebuild the District's program.

But "private clubs raise their own funds and the parents do the rest. Here in the city, the District is responsible for almost everything," McCoy said. "The District government, at present, as far as finances go, is providing only coaches and pools. We need an outside source of funding."

But Hill said the problem is more complicated than just finances. He said he has nearly $1 million to spend for summer swimming.

"It's not the money. It's the numbers. We have the pools and we have the equipment, we just don't have the numbers" of swimmers, he said. "We're running up against a social situation that we must overcome."

Takoma Park team parents and coaches contend that the social barriers are not insurmountable.

There also are practical advantages. Robert Stephens, of Lamond Riggs, whose 9-year-old son, Delante, swims for Takoma, said, "Basically he's using swimming to stay in shape for Boys Club basketball, which starts in November."

In its first year, the Takoma team was unbeaten in its five division meets and won its division championship. This season, it moved up to a more competitive division and repeated the feat.

McCoy attributes the success in part to the parents.

They make sure team members get to practice two hours every weekday evening.

And they spend Saturday mornings poolside, officiating at the meets as judges, timers, recorders, referees, award writers and team representatives. There also is a parent booster club that sells food at meets to help offset travel costs.

Hill said he would like to see Takoma's success repeated around the city. He intends to revise the District's Learn to Swim program into a series of "Aquacamps" next summer in the hope of stimulating interest.

"I've had to reinvent the wheel, reintroduce swimming to people," Hill said. "We're not doing anything different except marketing, repackaging it.