CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Cross Lanes Community Pool has had champion swimmers for years, 26 years to be exact. The Sharks wrapped up their 26th consecutive Greater Kanawha Valley Summer Swimming Championship title Saturday at University of Charleston Natatorium.
Cross Lanes amassed more than 3,700 points throughout the event better known as the City Meet, beating second-place South Hills by more than 700 points.
One key factor in Cross Lanes' decades of dominance is the amount of swimmers from the community. Cross Lanes sends out far more swimmers than its competition each year, which results in far more opportunities to score points.
"It's been a Cross Lanes tradition for so many years," said first-year coach Ryan Pennington. "We just come together as a community and we pull together to represent the area."
Pennington believes, however, that the quantity of swimmers is not as important to winning the city championship as the quality.
"It [winning the title] is not so much [having] more swimmers," Pennington argues, "we've got some swimmers that are swimming at the collegiate level now and have two from this team that will be collegiate swimmers as well."
Current Cross Lanes competitors Luke Carpenter and Jacob Douglas will be swimming at Davis & Elkins and Alderson-Broaddus, respectively, while former Cross Lanes swimmer Jacob Crane will be entering his sophomore year with the swim team at John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio.
Cross Lanes must continue to produce quality swimmers if it wishes to continue the remarkable winning streak.
"The quality and quantity of swimmers here in the Valley is increasing," said Pennington. "It's becoming more difficult to keep this up. This was really hard this year and the competition was great."
Cross Lanes has not had the same head coach in three years, making it even more difficult to continue the success, but Pennington hopes that being a consistent and lasting coach like former head coach Brenda Stevens will help keep the Sharks from slipping below the competition.
Stevens was the Cross Lanes head coach for 26 consecutive years, winning 23 straight championships from 1988-2010.
"We've struggled to replace Coach Bren," said Pennington. "She was such a legendary coach of her time, but it [the coaching job] just came my way and I love it.
"It's nerve-wracking, but so much fun. I've told [his swimmers] they have me for at least eight more years."