According to 9 year old Kiara “KiKi” Daughty of Roxbury, “It feels better when you’re in the water, because it’s too noisy out here.” It was true.  A happy, energetic noise filled the air at Blodgett Pool on Friday evening (April 8) when 225 young swimmers, ranging in age from 5 to 17, displayed their accomplished strokes and obvious love of the sport as part of the Boston Center for Youth and Families Swimming Championship.

For the second year in a row, they came to Harvard from several Boston neighborhoods, cheered on by family members and friends who filled the spectator gallery above the pool.

KiKi Daughty, who swam both freestyle and the backstroke as part of the Boston Elite Swim Team (B.E.S.T.), was a non-swimmer just a few years ago, according to the B.E.S.T. program founder Nadine Jesionek. “We started this program as a way to reduce the alarming rate of drowning deaths suffered by inner city children, so our primary goal is to teach swimming and water safety. This meet is a bonus.” The team is looking forward to competing in the national Black Heritage Swim Meet in Raleigh, N.C. in May.

Quinton Hutton of Roxbury, whose 13-year-old daughter Quimya also swims for B.E.S.T., noted that “swimming, rather than a running sport, is good for her because of her asthma. She sees herself swimming for a college some day.”

The same sentiment was expressed by West Roxbury parent Marjorie Bennett, whose sons Nathan and Vincent were inspired by their previous Harvard visit. “[They] have been looking forward to coming back to this pool since last year. They both want to go to an Ivy League school.” The boys swim three nights a week at the Hennigan Community Center in Jamaica Plain under the tutelage of volunteer coach and Boston Public School teacher Ted Loska, who explained, “Swimming can be a super organized and high pressure sport. This league is nurturing – the goal is to provide a safe, supportive environment. Coming here adds to the excitement, because this is a seriously fine pool. The kids certainly know where they are, but the parents are more thrilled than anyone to see their kids swim at Harvard.”

Senior Associate Director of Athletics Jeremy Gibson welcomed having the young athletes on campus. “It is great to see the enthusiasm and enjoyment of the kids and their families who come to our facilities for a wide variety of activities. We’re pleased to be part of Harvard’s vibrant partnership with the city and our neighbors,” said Gibson.