Riverlands Stingrays deliver summer structure, personal improvements

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, June 27, 2018

LAPLACE — Recent St. Charles Catholic graduate Grace Richoux is edging toward her final swim invitational next month with the Riverlands Stingrays, marking the end of a 13-year competitive swimming stint.

At Riverlands Golf and Country Club in LaPlace, swim team has been a summer tradition for more than 40 years. Richoux and countless other swimmers have grown up in the water, striving for personal bests each year.

Janet Hymel started the Stingrays swim team in 1974, when heat-scoring sheets were entered by hand on typewriters.

Lindsey Vicknair, Hymel’s granddaughter, has coached the Stingrays for the past 11 years.

“I swam for Riverlands until I was 18 and our other coach, Deanna LeBlanc, swam for another local team in the River Parish swim league,” Vicknair said.

“We love our little league. I really enjoy the relationships with the kids and seeing how excited they are when they break their best time.”

Swim team coach Lindsey Vicknair holds Reese Mender in the pool during practice.

Riverlands traditionally performs well within the league, Vicknair said, regularly earning second or third place at the annual end-of-season invitational.

It’s been difficult to overcome the LARAYO Barracudas, a team that has gone undefeated in the league since 1999.

Regardless, Vicknair said the Stingrays show strength in individual events, and nearly everyone on the team sees improvement over the month of June.

In preparation for the invitational July 6-8 at Ellington in Luling, the Stingrays have practiced Monday through Friday since the start of June. They have competed against SunVilla, LARAYO, Hill Heights and LaVacherie and are preparing for a Thursday meet against Ellington.

“We’re doing well,” Vicknair said. “Kids who were disqualified for technique in the first meet were not in the past week. Our main goal is to get better every day and every week. They’re learning a lot, so we’re happy.”

Vicknair wades in the water during practice to help younger children perfect their breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly and freestyle techniques. Amid practicing relays and increasing endurance, she promotes good sportsmanship. According to Vicknair, swimming gives children much-needed summer structure.

“When they have practices in the morning, it gives them a reason to get up and get their day going,” Vicknair said. “I know parents appreciate that, too.”

Along with promoting good exercise habits, Vicknair said swimming builds confidence.

“It’s not just a team sport,” Vicknair said. “It’s individual, as well, and gives kids something to work toward.”

Richoux regularly volunteers during practice, and she’s watched children make strides with their bests.

“The swim team is a family environment,” Richoux said. “I remember being in the pool with my cousins when I was little, and now I’ve seen a lot of these younger kids grow up.”

Richoux is attending LSU in the fall to study kinesiology, and she hopes to continue helping out at the pool during summer breaks.

She and fellow SCC graduate Alex Noel are standouts on the Stingrays who always score points in back stroke, breast stroke and butterfly, according to Vicknair.

Noel is bringing his swimming career to college with a commitment to Ouachita Baptist University in Arkansas this fall.