The Panama City Swim Team has been in existence since 1954, first as the Panama City Swim Club, and later as the Panama City Swim Team (PCST). The following is a letter from one of our original members that really tells the story of how we got started.
The roots of today’s “Panama City Swim Team” were established over 60 years ago. The team was a member of the Amateur Athletic Union of the United States. This status would allow a participant to eventually qualify for the United States Olympic team if they had enough talent.
The team was sponsored by the Panama City YMCA that was located in a two story building at 544 East 6h St. The basketball gym was housed there for league basketball teams to compete. My father, John Colmant Sr., along with coach Robert Austin and other parents formed the team through registrations at the “Y” of girls and boys ages 6-18 years old.
A city school bus would pick up swimmers at 7:00 am Mon-Fri. during the summers at the Cove shopping center located on cherry street in the cove (still there). The bus would make several stops on the way to the beach. We were fortunate enough to have use of an Olympic sized pool that was AAU certified to hold competitions. It had 1 meter, 1 ½ meter and 3-meter diving boards for the diving competitions. The pool was called “Open Sands Pool”, and was located in the Open Sands neighborhood, which still exists today. The subdivision is just west of Surfside Middle School on the same side of back beach road on the beach. The pool was later filled in and homes stand there today.
I remember the bus was full everyday, so we must have had 30-40 members. We were a dedicated group. We held local meets with swim teams from Tallahassee and Pensacola. Every summer we competed in the “Tobaccoland Invitational” held in Moultrie, Georgia. There would be 60 or more teams from the tri-state area. There you could occasionally see swimmers and divers that held national records.
We always competed at the district meets held at Levy Pool in Tallahassee. We would place several people there who would go on to compete at the state meet usually held in Jacksonville or Lake Worth. A person had to finish in the top six people at district to qualify to go to state. I went to state several times in freestyle, butterfly and as anchor on the medley relay team. The only time I placed was on the medley team in the 10-12 year category. We took 4th place. My brother, John Colmant Jr. was an excellent diver at all heights and placed in state twice. The top 3 finishers at state went on to compete at nationals. Our team never sent anyone to nationals.
We were always beaten at state by the teams from south Florida because they could practice year round because of their warm weather. Our pool was not heated or indoors, so we could only practice in the summertime. We always did well against panhandle teams, because they too had limited practice time.
I was on the team from 1954-1961. I have very fond memories of the team on the bus riding to swim meets. Parents in cars were always right behind us. Parent participation was abundant on our team. We would stay in army barracks (no air conditioning) when we had to spend the nights on the road. Awesome medals, ribbons and trophies were always awarded at the meets.. it was very exciting.
The pictures are (left to right) incredibly dedicated Swim Coach Bob Austin, local sports commentator Frank Pericola and John Colmant Sr., president of the Panama City Swim Club. The bus picture was taken in 1956. I am the guy with the cool black socks standing in front of the bus. My big brother, John Colmant is the tall guy standing in the door of the bus.
So as you go practice, go with pride. .you are part of one of the oldest swim teams in the state. Swim as good as you can, and that will be victory enough..go team.
Panama City, FL