Cannonballs swim program ready for fourth summer season

Published 2:00 pm Tuesday, May 21, 2024

In a lot of places, cannonballs are a fun way to enter a pool. In Vicksburg, Cannonballs are a fun way to start swimming.

The Vicksburg YMCA Cannonballs are set to begin their fourth summer season on May 28. The program for children ages 5-15 is designed to introduce them to competitive swimming, including meets, in a fun, low-pressure environment.

“If you can swim one lap of the pool we’ll turn you into a racer,” Cannonballs coordinator Wilson Carroll said. “It’s an introduction to competitive swimming. It’s not swim lessons. This is for families and kids that want to learn how to compete.”

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Carroll, who also coaches St. Aloysius’ high school swim team, started the Cannonballs program in 2021. He intended it as a bridge for young, novice swimmers between basic swimming and the more structured club programs like the Vicksburg Swim Association.

The six-week program runs through the end of June. Practices are held weekday mornings from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. at the Wilkinson Ver Beck YMCA pool on Oak Ridge Road. Meets are on Monday afternoons beginning at 3 p.m.

The Cannonballs are part of the Jackson Swim Association, a league of 14 similar programs from the Jackson Metro area and McComb. Each team competes in four head-to-head meets and a fifth leaguewide meet at the end of the season.
The Cannonballs have home meets on June 10 and 24, and travel to the Metro on June 3 and 17.

The cost of the program is $120 for YMCA members and $160 for non-members. Registration through the YMCA’s web site is encouraged, and parents can call the Vicksburg YMCA at 601-638-1071 for more information about the program. Carroll, though, said swimmers can also sign up at one of the morning practices.

Approximately 40 children swam with the Cannonballs last summer, and Carroll is hoping to get 50 or more involved this year.

“We’ll take them all the way through the end of June. If they show up at 7:30 we’ll get them on the program,” Carroll said. “I want to thank the YMCA for helping make this possible. They paid for the starting blocks and the automatic timing system, which really sets us apart from a lot of places.”

Besides teaching Vicksburg’s swimmers, the Cannonballs are training the next generation of coaches. Spencer Carroll — Wilson’s son — and Leah Larson are in their third and fourth year, respectively, as co-head coaches. Both started leading the program when they were in high school at St. Aloysius.

Other current and former St. Al swimmers Campbell McCoy, Blair Farrell, Luke Larson and Hendrix Eldridge will be assistant coaches this season.

The coaches handle workouts and instruction, while Wilson Carroll oversees the program.

“We feel like we’re really building a program with the alumni that are coming back to help,” Wilson Carroll said. “Having ex-state champion swimmers running the program, that are passionate about the sport. makes all the difference.”

Leah Larson, a 2022 St. Al graduate, won five individual MAIS state championships in her high school career. She said she’s enjoyed working with the Cannonballs and helping introduce young swimmers to the competitive side of the sport.

“Kids love to compete,” she said. “With the groups we get, it’s not hard. They’re coachable and talented, and they work hard. They soak it up.”

Larson added that seeing her swimmers pick up on their lessons and get stronger in the water is what makes it all worth it.

“It’s great. It’s magical,” Larson said. “You give them not only a skill in competitive swimming, but a lifelong skill that they can use.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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