Aidan Smith

Clinton’s Aidan Smith swims at a River King home swim meet earlier this year.

The Clinton River Kings host the state-qualifying meet this Saturday, an exciting event for all involved.

The Kings may not necessarily be looking for state spots or huge records. Instead, they’re enjoying themselves and the progress the program has made.

The Clinton swim program dropped in numbers, but has since grown back up to over twenty members. Aiden Smith was a part of that. Smith, a member of the Clinton cross country team, decided it was time some of his running teammates joined him in the water.

“A few of us who had already been in the sport [swimming] got some of the cross country kids to come out,” Smith said. Some were seniors who we told, hey it’s your last year you might as well try it. Some were underclassmen and we said they should see how it is, it’ll help for track season.”

Smith is having a successful year with the River Kings, and part of it is that his sports coincide.

That’s one reason he’s tried to convince people to splash into the pool

“Even though you go from zero impact to high impact, you definitely see similarities,” Smith said. “The muscles you gain from running you still use when you’re here. In the pool, you build up other muscles that help in different sports.”

He’s been swimming since he was in the RCA program in elementary school, now nearing the end of his prep swimming career. One thing he’s taken away from the sport is the drive to improve when you’re swimming against your own times.

“Just the want to get better,” Smith said. “Most sports focus on your mind. If you don’t want to try at it you’ll never get better.”

Smith is a large proponent of getting more Clinton High students out for the sport. One if his main selling points is one of the same ones the cross kids focus on – they’re individual but when the sport is done you have teammates.

“It’s like cross country,” Smith said. “It has that family feel. It’s not as big but it’s really fun.”

Smith did his job, with plenty of new faces joining the River Kings this year.

Another niche the team wants to dig into is the co-op between Clinton and DeWitt. Right now, there is just on DeWitt student who joins the River Kings: sophomore Paul Duray.

“My brother and sister started swimming and that really got me into it,” Duray said. “Being able to swim with my brother, enjoy the car rides, it was one of my favorite memories from high school.”

Duray says he would encourage other DeWitt students to join the team, also citing the relationships he’s formed since coming to the black and red.

“I think it can get hard at times, but most of the time it’s not,” Duray said. “It’s awesome ... one of my favorite parts is meeting all these new people and having a good time.

“I always think about it ... I not only got to put in work at my school, but also at Clinton.”

Smith knows well from cross country that as the team grows, the family grows. Both him and Duray, along with the rest of the River Kings, want to continue to see the program grow.

They say swimming shouldn’t be intimidating – ironically, it’s just a small part of being on the team.

“It’s not as bad as you may think,” Smith joked. “We do a lot of swimming, but we all get to joke around and hang out afterward. Most things suck while you’re doing them, but you’re doing it with all your friends.”

“Swiming is one of the toughest things I’ve ever done,” Duray said. “But also one of the most enjoyable things I’ve done.”

The Clinton River Kings host state-qualifying on Saturday starting a noon.