The next two weekends are going to be busy ones for the Manhattan Marlins swim teams.
Beginning with the Monster Splash this weekend — the team’s first home meet of the fall season — followed by a visit from two-time U.S. Olympian Eric Shanteau on Oct. 27, the Marlins have a lot to look forward to.
“For this team, we have a ton of momentum going right now,” new Marlins head coach Rob Putnam said. “It’s pretty cool.
“Part of it’s timing, every four years swimming kind of gets the spotlight because of the Olympics, and so that has translated into our numbers increasing.”
In August, the Marlins hosted their annual Swim-a-thon. The most money the team has raised before was $2,500. But this year, Putnam challenged his swimmers to raising $6,000 to go toward the growing program.
What was the catch for raising all that money?
Putnam promised his swimmers if they raised that amount, he would bring an Olympic swimmer in to conduct a clinic.
The 55 swimmers who took part in the Swim-a-thon got pledges to donate per lap they swam. The objective was to complete 200 laps in two hours.
By the time the Swim-a-thon was finished, the Marlins had gone above and beyond the goal Putnam set for them — raising $6,600 — an average of about $120 per swimmer.
“I have a lot of contacts in swimming and through USA Swimming,” Putnam said. “So, I reached out to some friends and kind of got a list of some swimmers who would maybe be willing to come out.”
Putnam said Eric Shanteau was the perfect fit for the type of swimmer he wanted to come work with the hard-working swimmers he coaches every day.
“It came down to the fact that he had such a great story to tell,” Putnam said about Shanteau.“He’s a cancer survivor and he’s done some phenomenal things. So the hope is we’ll keep some of this momentum going, after he comes in and tells his story.”
Shanteau competed in both the 2008 and 2012 summer Olympics.
In 2008 he won two gold medals as a member of relay teams. Shanteau earned his third gold medal this past summer, as he was a part of the 4x100-meter medley relay.
In June of 2008, a week before competing for a spot on the Olympic team, Shanteau was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
Despite the news, Shanteau decided to compete, and went on to make the Olympic team in the 200 breaststroke.
Shanteau underwent treatment for cancer and was officially declared cancer-free in September of 2008. He has since become an advocate for young adult cancer awareness.
“This is a program that someone like an Eric Shanteau comes out of,” Putnam said. “He swam through a club team like this, so his coming here, I think it plants the seed for some of those kids that there is that opportunity.”
Swimmers are also excited to have an Olympian visiting Manhattan, and to have the opportunity to learn from him.
Sixteen-year-old Pilar Dritz and her 10-year-old brother, Egan Dritz had the opportunity to go to the Olympic swimming trials this summer in Omaha, Neb., where they watched Shanteau compete.
“I’m really excited he’s coming here,” said Pilar, who had just hopped out of the pool following practice Wednesday night. “To get a higher level experienced swimmer in Manhattan is awesome.”
Egan also said the time he spent at the Olympic Trials this summer was memorable and that he can’t wait to meet an Olympian in person.
“I just kind of want to meet an Olympian swimmer,” Egan said, “see his medals and ask him questions.”
Along with the Marlins’ excitement of Shanteau coming to Manhattan, the team is preparing to host its first and only home swim meet this season this weekend.
The meet begins on Saturday at 9 a.m. and go through Sunday at the Kansas State Natatorium. It’s expected to be one of the biggest meets of the season, as nearly 300 swimmers from more than 15 teams are set to participate.
“I want people to know we do have this great program going,” Putnam said. “We have a ton of kids that are all fired up about the meet and they’re coming out and working hard.
“They’re going to have a chance to show off a little bit this weekend, so it’s going to be fun.”