The Waverly Piranhas Swim Club’s genesis goes back to 1962, when the Waverly school district had great interest in promoting instructional swimming and family recreational swim programs. At the time, the activities were supervised by Red Cross Trained instructors. In 1963, a modern six-lane pool gave Waverly one of the best swimming facilities in the greater Lansing area. With the new facility, former Michigan State University diver Jerry Chadwick began working with a group of youngsters in a competitive class.
A year later, in 1964, he took 100 youngsters to a summer dual meet in Battle Creek for the first time as an organized team and the Waverly Swim Club team was born. Interest in meets grew rapidly. Parents of the swimmers, along with Chadwick, planned the first of three Tri-County meets. Qualifying times were not required, and swimmers swam in their age groups. Fierce competition took place between the high school swimmers.
In 1966, Howard Comstock was hired as a high school science teacher and head swim coach. As a former All-American swimmer at Monroe High School and star backstroker for Bowling Green University, Comstock brought experience in age-group swim teams, and had coached several swimmers to national rankings.
Shortly after his arrival, he began a Saturday morning competitive swim class with 15 swimmers. They listened in awe as Comstock told them what they would learn; stroke technique, starts, turns, interval training, and distance and sprint work. Some had no idea what competitive swimming was all about. Comstock always kept the pool doors open for parents, not only to watch, but to ask questions about the progress of their youngsters. The class grew as word spread that the kids were having fun.
Near the end of the summer of 1967, Comstock felt he had enough good swimmers to attend a Toledo Recreation Swim Festival meet. He wanted the team to swim in relays, but the swimmers needed to be members of the A.A.U. club. A charter for $25 was obtained from the Michigan A.A.U. and the Waverly Swim Club was officially charted as the team’s name. This trip was to be the first of many meets with the same format; hotels, drivers, swim bags, suitcases, reading materials and other overnight accouterments. They were hooked on swim meets, but didn't realize it at the time. Swimmers and parents began asking about more meets, and soon began taking trips to Detroit-area meets, where swimming was well enhanced.
The Waverly Swim Club was the forerunner of year-round swim clubs in the Lansing area. The Spartan Swim Club at MSU was a summer-only team that recruited mainly high school and college swimmers. The only other swim team was the Lansing YMCA, which swam from mid-October to March. Membership was open for boys only. At a later date, the YMCA and the Waverly Swim Club would join and form the Waverly Swim Club Y, which needed a charter. About the same time, the girls in the Lansing area joined with the Okemos-Waverly-Lansing (OWLS) team and competed in Y meets. The Y program was very successful and earned many championships. Within a few years, the OWLS broke up when Okemos and Lansing (including East Lansing) swimmers could not agree as to who should be on relay teams. The golden Serpents and Okemos Aquatic swim clubs emerged and began programs patterned after the Waverly Swim Club.
When the Lansing YMCA was required by its national office to begin charging a regular $65 membership fee to participate in Y competition, the Y program was dropped. From 1973 on, Waverly swimmers competed for the Waverly Swim Club.
The name “Piranhas” was added when another Frank Krupiarz's (another founder) daughters, Patty and Jane, along with another team member asked Comstock why they couldn’t have a team nickname. He encouraged them to come up with one. They choose “Piranhas”, a fierce fish, because they wanted to “eat up” their competition.
When the Michigan High School Athletic Association ruled that a high school coach could not coach high school swimmers at the same time they were members of a swim club, Comstock was forced to stop coaching the Piranhas.
The Waverly Piranhas Swim Club is credited for its strong support of swimming and the Waverly community. We have donated swim equipment to the Waverly schools from our funds, donated a swim trophy cabinet and continue to re-invest in the program with improvements to equipment and the community.
Each year, we hold our annual swim banquet to recognize the achievement of the swimmers and deliver awards and trophies. One of them is the Howard Comstock award which is located at the high school and bears the names of those Waverly swimmers judged annually by the coaches as best meeting the leadership qualities displayed by Comstock as the organizer and developer of the Piranhas. Another founding member, Frank Krupiarz, has an award named after him and is also located at the high school and bears the names of those Waverly swimmers judged annually by the coaches as showing the most improved “stroke technique” during the year.
Many fine swimmers have been Piranhas and continued their swim careers as members of the Warriors HS Varsity team as well as various college and university swim teams. Some of the early swimmers who made themselves known and have made their best time on the record board were Susan Berger, Sandy Sarhatt, Forrest Piper, Marty and Chuck Pohl, Peter Schneider, Dave and Mark Kohmetscher, Duane and Gene Simon, and Teresa and Chris Krupiarz.
To date, the Waverly Piranhas Swim Club continues to strive to promote a positive, self-goal setting program with the focus on the individual swimmer as well as the team, all while having fun.
(Howard Comstock passed away on June 15, 2017 at the age of 76 after a long and courageous battle with cancer. Along with Howard, Frank Krupiarz is an original founder of the Piranhas and major contributor to this article. Frank passed away on November 8, 2010 at the age of 90. Frank, having served in the Navy, had a military flag draped on his casket. This flag, donated by Frank's wife, Regina, hangs at the pool today.)