After ushering in a new era with an expanded scoring system a year ago, the 2019 Gwinnett County Swim League’s championship meet will represent the end of another era when the first gun goes off Saturday at the Georgia Tech’s McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta and runs through Sunday.
For seven of the past 10 summers, Bill Mahoney has served in a major leadership position with the GCSL, the last four as league president, but will step down after this weekend’s meet.
“I’ve been president for four years, and I did a stint on the (league) board for three years,” Mahoney said. “I’m sure some people will look at it (as the end of an era). My kids are getting older — I’ve got one in college and one that’s a rising junior in high school.
“The league is for kids (ages) 5 through 18, and it’s important we have people running it who are going to have kids in the league who are going to be here for a while. One of the things we’ve done over the past few years is restock the board with some folks who are going to be there for the long haul. It seemed like a good time to get it in place and step aside.”
While the county meet will mean the passing of the torch to new leadership, the defending-champion Lansmoore Lasers have no intention of passing the team championship trophy down anytime soon, even with a slew of contenders like the Thunderbolts, last year’s runner-up, Spalding Corners, 2017 champion Wild Timber and Chateau Elan, close on their heels.
In fact, Mahoney expects this weekend’s meet to be as close and competitive as any during his years involved in the league.
“I think you’ll see a lot of the familiar faces at the top (of the team standings),” Mahoney said. “I think it’s going to be a really close, competitive meet. The dual-meet scores across the county, there were a lot of close meets among the top teams. (And) we made that scoring change last year to go to (scoring) top 30 (finishes) instead of top 20, so that will definitely play a big part, and the teams that are at the top have both stars and depth, usually.
“I think you’ll see some movement in the middle tier of teams, too. I’ve seen some teams with really strong performances during the dual-meet season that may make their way up the (standings) in county, too.”
Mahoney also expects several different age and gender groups figure to be especially competitive.
“I think you’ll see some great races in particularly in 9-10 boys,” Mahoney said. “There’s a number of competitors in the North Division that I got to see in our meets this year that are really great. And it’s always fun to see the big kids race.”
But perhaps the biggest excitement of all as Mahoney reflects on his team as GCSL president is just watching the young swimmers, like his own son and daughter, get a chance to show what they can do on a large scale like that county meet.
That includes getting to compete in a venue like Tech’s McAuley Aquatic Center, which has played host to no less than the 1996 Olympic swimming and diving competition and numerous NCAA events over the past two-plus decades.
“It’s a thrill for us to use that facility (again),” Mahoney said. “If you think about the 2,000 kids who go down there to swim at our county meet, most of them are not SwimAtlanta or Dynamo or Spartan Aquatic types. For them to get a chance to swim in an Olympic pool with 2,000 people in the stands, it’s a great opportunity.
“We’re thankful that Tech is a great partner, and it’s unique facility to get to swim a summer championship meet at.”