Kings Grant was once Summerville’s summer juggernaut

  • Thursday, August 1, 2013

After coaching the Kings Grant swim team to its third consecutive city championship, Dickie Miler receives the Bernstein-Ector Trophy. Also pictured is Sandra Poulnot. PROVIDED

 
Years before Coosaw Creek ruled the pool Kings Grant had its own swimming powerhouse.
The Crocodiles’ swim team claimed its third consecutive Coastal Carolina Swim Association championship last week but Coosaw Creek isn’t the only Summerville-area team to have pulled off the three-peat. In the summer of 1978 the Kings Grant swim team claimed its third consecutive championship for the Coastal Carolina Novice Swim League, which eventually became the Coastal Carolina Swim Association.
Kings Grant went on to win the next two championships but the third of the titles will always be special to Dickie Miler, who as the head coach of the team had the honor of taking home the Bernstein-Ector Trophy that summer.
“The early power houses in the league were the Charleston Naval Base, James Island Swim Team, Snee Farm, Northbridge Terrace and Kings Gant-Summerville,” Miler said. “These teams battled it out each year for the city championship with great parity of competition so in an attempt to reward and honor the seemingly impossible feat of being the first to win three consecutive city championships the league decided to retire the trophy. I’m proud to have that trophy on my mantle and to have been a part of the first dominate juggernaut of the league.”
Of course Snee Farm still has ultimate bragging rights for the league, having won 22 consecutive championships before Coosaw Creek began its run.
Watching all the teams compete at last week’s City Meet, Miler couldn’t help but reminisce and think about the evolution of the league.
“I found myself reflecting back on the amazing success of this league that was birthed out of the hearts of several dedicated parents, community leaders and passionate folks who wanted to introduce competitive swimming and health recreation to a new generation of children,” he said. “There was a real energy and cavalier spirit in those earlier days that yielded a strong and wide footprint to build on.”
Swimming activists from across the greater Charleston area came together to build the league, which has now grown to include 23 teams and more than 2,700 swimmers. Summerville activists who helped found and develop the league included Lola Jones, Rosemary Sutton, Louise Button, Peach Boswell, Barbara Blanton and Sandra Salmon.
Miler says competitive swimming in the area really took off after the 1955 opening of the Danny Jones Recreational Center off North Charleston’s Park Circle. The center featured a 55-yard pool with eight lanes and both one-meter and three-meter diving boards, making it ideal for large swimming and diving competitions.
“It was the Mecca of pools in the Lowcountry,” Miler said.
By the 1960’s the Charleston YMCA opened two indoor pools that attracted teams and led to year-round swimming programs.
But Summerville swimmers either had to carpool to nicer facilities or make do with what they had, which was mainly three pools that each had limitations. The pool off Bacon’s Bridge Road was spring fed so it featured a gradual incline at one end rather than a wall. The pool off West Carolina Avenue was tiny. The pool at Summerville Country Club was oblong so six lanes at one end funneled into four lanes at the other.
“The Old Curve Inn pool probably had the coldest water in the south,” Miler said. “Because of the incline coaches’ instructions were simple, keep swimming until your hand starts to drag along the bottom, stand up and turn around. The old Carolina Inn pool was the smallest practice pool in America. After a dive and two strokes you would crash into the wall.  But we developed the best turns of any team. The George Miler Country Club pool was great … but without lanes to keep us in order we constantly crashed into each other in the deep end. The trick was to push of the wall and come back under the water, and the other bodies, as far as you could.”
Fortunately Summerville teams had talented swimmers and dedicated coaches so despite the lack of their own state of the art practice facility they were able to have success.
The list of Summerville-area swimmers who left their mark on the summer league over the years is quite lengthy. For Miler, ones who come to mind include Trenholm Walker, James Chellis, Eric Swingert, Scott Simon, John Wactor, Lucia Miler, Chene Moore and John Boyle.
“They were all great swimmers, great people and great advocates for the sport,” Miler said. “However, if you check all the old record books there was only one swimmer who never lost a race in his entire swimming career and set more meet records than any other two swimming legends combined – John “the rock” Boyle.”
Boyle swam for Kings Grant.
One of Summerville’s early coaching pioneers was Lola Jones.
“Her coaching tactics and motivational skills were beyond comparison,” Miler said. “Almost like a wise seer, Coach Lola knew exactly the right words to say to extract every ounce of one’s ability. She feverishly paced the pool deck during each race encouraging her steeds to propel themselves to victory.”
 
Contact Roger Lee @ 873-9424 ext. 213 or rlee@journalscene.com

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