Aly's missing words from Awards Night.

Alycia McAlister

Dearest SVST Families,

Thank you those of you who were able to attend last night’s Awards Night. Though I wasn’t able to visit much with any of you, I enjoyed seeing you there and watching you all mingle and share. Much of the evening was wonderful. And long. And yet no matter how long it is, it is always too short. 

While so much was said and shared about our swimmers and coaches at our Awards Night, much was left out or cut out to due time constraints, technical difficulties, bedtimes, and a severe lack of tissues. One of the most important missing pieces of last night was appreciating and thanking the individuals who worked to make this season happen.

The standout volunteer of this season, and the reason Sun Valley feels more like family and fun than a sport or work is because of the tireless creativity and seemingly boundless joy and energy from Laura Gunderson. After several grueling years in a very behind the scenes job of being on the board and running our Conference Championship Meet, Laura took on a dual role of Social and Spirit Director and not only brought back the Heyday fun factor but added her personal touches and knocked it out of the park. Thank you Laura for Welcome Back Kick-off, Terrific Tuesdays, the Meet Treat Tent, age group socials (adults included), Spirit Week, Conference décor, the end of season Hurricane Harbor outing, and everything in-between. These activities are where the extra strong bonding amongst our teammates happens. You are amazing! Thank you Laura!

For turning the fun factor up to eleven at meets, we need to thank Jen Grossi for jumping in to bring the music. Her DJ and announcing skills add that extra something. Music, and subsequent dancing on deck, made meets and events even more magical. Thank you Jen for all of your home meet and LSC DJ work and MC skills. You rock!

Jen brought the music, but Beth Kring brought the food! Thank you Beth for choosing some great Food Trucks and providing us all with delicious sustenance. (OMG, those tater-tots!) 

While it is fun, there is a lot of work that goes into swim meets. Every meet requires Stroke & Turn Judges to make sure the competition is fair.  For the past several years Chris Williams has been building and managing a terrific group of Judges.  This team has to spend extra time each season to train and practice. They often work whole meets on deck in the sun soaked by speedy or just splashy swimmers. They must pay close attention to details most don’t ever notice, for hours. Often their work goes unnoticed, but their job is vitally important to making the sport competitive and providing valuable feedback to coaches and swimmers to use for growth. Chris Williams has been an exemplary S&T Judge and in addition, recruited, trained and managed SVST’s S&T Team. Thank you Chris!  And thanks to your team: Julie Parks, John Gunderson, Laura Lawrence, Michael Strittmatter, and Keith Gronbach.

Another equally hard working team that makes sure each young swimmer is ready for competition is the outstanding Shepherd Crew!! Led by a mom with a gift for working with both youngsters and parents, Melissa Barclay has deftly created a team that has arguably one of the most challenging jobs on deck. Corralling, organizing, and accounting for our eight year old and younger swimmers for every event at every meet. This crew knows the names and faces and families of all our young swimmers. Shepherds get their steps in seeking out youngsters from all corners of the deck and beyond to ensure they get a chance to swim. Our Shepherd volunteers worked every event and did it with aplomb. Thank you Melissa and your stellar crew: Megan Branagh, Hein Clayton and Lisa Carlson. 

Our home meets couldn’t happen without the mighty help of our Set-up Crew!  Led by Chris Vignoles, the brains, speed and brawn of this crew transforms our facility from recreation to competition mode efficiently. They rearrange, build and then tear-down & replace our deck,  Desk, pool and parking lots at every home meet. Thank you Chris and your Set-up Crew Andrew Parrot and Chris Beaver.

At the very core of every swim competition is the Desk. This is where all of the technical details, scheduling of events, seeding of swimmers, starting & timing of races, scoring of meets, and results & records happens. There will always be swimming, but the Desk makes it a competition. Our Desk was skillfully run by Dan Lynch who had the harrowing experience of learning on the fly since this was anything but a normal event season. Thank you Dan for your flexibility, patience, and determination to figure out and solve SO MANY challenges this year.  You led a completely new team of desk helpers through a completely new set of challenges. Thank you for teaching us all and for saying yes to the myriad oddball requests. Gratitude and kudos to you and your team behind the scenes, Tina Sappal and Michael Sachs, and the those you trained on the spot at meets, Laura Lawrence, Blair Wellington, Tami Andres, Josh Taylor, and Chris Williams who all stepped up to the challenge.

I also owe an enormous thank you to Chris MacKay who has been our trusted Starter at each home event. He not only keeps our swimming events running, he actually keeps our pool running. Chris has been counted on to keep Sun Valley’s pool clean, clear and properly chemical-ed so that our water is safe and comfortable to swim in. His expertise and knowledge of our facility is invaluable. Thanks for always being there, Chris!

Beyond the work and fun that happens at Sun Valley, there is a year around volunteer job that culminates in our Conference Championship Meet. This past year, (and last), Jill Taylor has been the Sun Valley Representative at LSC as Secretary & Clerk of Course Director. While her job is to be a liaison, and to direct and staff a portion of the LSC Meet, Jill does SO MUCH MORE.  She pays attention to ALL the details of swimming in our community with a special focus on Sun Valley. Jill has been our record keeper, editor, advocate, historian, and a queen of all trades.  She and her husband Josh are always asking how they can help and jumping in whenever asked. Their time, efforts and contributions to Sun Valley are immeasurable. Thank you Taylors!

Our swimmers shine with SVST pride wherever they are. This is aided by a dedicated parent volunteer who makes sure each swimmer has SVST ‘fit to flaunt. Mindy Palma has single-handedly outfitted our team from tip to toe. She has ALSO been an enormous benefactor via her fundraising campaign from recent years that led to a beautiful (readable) new scoreboard and updated record boards (hand built by Mindy!) around the pool. Thank you for beautifying and decking-out the facility and team members with gear that we can show off with pride. I am are grateful to you, Mindy, for always striving to make our swimmers and facility look good and be better.

Which brings me back to last night where it was fun to see swimmers dressed up and in their dry clothes. Our swimmers work all season to make progress and to achieve their goals. The internal drive and motivation of some is special. However, for others there is external motivation thanks to Natalie Moore who heads our Pop Times Records and Rewards and Anna Deignan who is in charge of Ribbons and Awards!  These ladies track, record, and recognize each swimmer’s accomplishments. They provide the carrots at the end of the stick and the records and memories to be proud of long after August of each year. Thank you for your season long efforts!

Last on this list of mostly behind the scenes helpers is our resident photographer who gives Cervenka Photography a run for its money. Bill Gerhardt spent each SVST event capturing the emotions and experiences of SVST. He shares his artful and dedicated work with us at the end of each season in a full-color, full-team, HD slideshow that always elicits a full range of emotions and refreshes memories instantly transporting us back through the blur of a brief swim season. Bill seems to capture moments in time that speak volumes. He finds the gems that most eyes on deck miss. Thank you Bill for your priceless End of the Season Slideshows

And out on deck... I need to (for the thousandth time, which is still not enough) tell Jake, Chris, Wesley and Ava how thrilled I am to have you four come together this summer and coach like a true team. Each of you was chosen for your particular expertise, skills, and personality.  I feel like we covered all of the bases. Each coach brought his or her tools to the table and together you built a beautiful SVST season. Jack, Chris and Ava, I cannot wait to see what you are capable of in the years to come. Wesley, we all wish you the best of luck in your new endeavors.Thank you.Thank you.Thank you!

Sun Valley Swim Team is a group effort. It is filled with personalities and talents. As Wesley said last night when each member is his or her or their authentic self the whole shines brighter. This year a record number of 13-18 year old swimmers stepped up to help their younger teammates and to teach Sun Valley Pool’s newest and youngest members, the Mini-Rays, how to swim and to enjoy the water (check out the program for the long list!). And a few swimmers who have not yet been recognized (apologies for omitting your names from our program), but who deserve it are Olivia Williams, who was an excellent Jr. Coach, and JP Rosenblatt who was a terrific Mini-Ray Coach and Mattie Rumberg who skillfully aided the six and under practices throughout the spring sessions. Encouraging, engaging with and learning from fellow swimmers in other age brackets what makes this sport special. I am so proud of all of you. Thank you all for your presence and patience with each other.

A final note of gratitude to all of the many parents, grandparents and siblings who volunteered at our meets and events. Some planned, some  were recruited, but you helped. We all did this together. Thank you for making this season a success. 

I hope your back to school transitions were (or for some of you...will be) successful and wish all of our swimmers and parent teachers a healthy and productive school year. I know how glad they are to be back in person and with so many of their peers. That social and personal component is a big part of what made the SVST 2021 Swim Season so special. We were together. More. Again.

Stay healthy and happy this winter. I look forward to seeing you on deck in 2022!

With gratitude,



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