Newburgh swimming club supporting teammates at Olympic Games

Lilly King, Mikaela Jenkins among group competing in Tokyo
Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 3:36 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 23, 2021 at 10:08 PM CDT
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NEWBURGH, Ind. (WFIE) - With the Olympic Games now officially underway, one swim club out of Newburgh will be cheering on their teammates.

The Newburgh Sea Creatures have a successful track record when it comes to sending individuals to the national level.

“Since I’ve been here in 2014, we’ve been fortunate enough to carry on this tradition of excellence that we’ve had, and elevate that as we’ve gone on,” NSC head coach Aaron Opell said. “To be able to set national records, junior national records, the relays and individual events, and also our ability to be able to send individuals on to the next level in swimming in college.”

Since 2014, NSC has sent 25 swimmers to the collegiate level.

Five swimmers from the club have made it to the USA National Team, which is comprised of the top six individuals in the country.

Evansville natives Lilly King and Mikaela Jenkins will represent the Sea Creatures as members of the U.S. swimming team at this year’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

[Lilly King, Jackie Young take part in Olympics opening ceremony coverage]

“Before I switched to Newburgh Sea Creatures, I was training mostly on my own, so I didn’t really understand the team aspect and how if you have great athletes training with you, then you will want to push and be like them,” Jenkins said. “So, I’ve had a lot of motivation and inspiration just from the people I’ve swam with over the past few years that have come from this pool.”

This push for excellence has inspired swimmers at all levels to join.

Castle High School junior, Chloe Plank, has been swimming with the club for almost eight years.

“Thinking like, ‘Oh wow, there’s not even one, but two or three people,’ it kind of gives you inspiration, like maybe I can be one of them from doing this club,” Plank said.

While the success of the storied club can be explained by generational talent, Opell says it also has to do with culture.

”Whenever you’re trying to build something special, it starts and ends with culture,” he said. “And whenever you have a group of like-minded individuals that are trying to unify to pursue a common goal, it brings everybody up. You don’t get generational talent all the time and we’ve been so lucky to be able to have that happen. We have people that want to do it, and then you have people who are saying this is the way to make it happen. So everybody gets to come along.”

The Sea Creatures will cheer on both King and Jenkins from the Tri-State.

King is set to swim in the 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke, starting Monday.

[Evansville planning Lilly King Olympic watch parties]

Jenkins will head to Tokyo on August 14 to compete in the Paralympics. Her first race is set for August 26.

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