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Shining Spirit Swim team unites in time of sorrow


Emily El-Amoudi (right) and her siblings Adam (left) and Lauren (center). Emily was a passionate swimmer. The Guymon Gators strive to continue her legacy. Photo by Brent Lansden


By JuliAnn Graham E


mily El-Amoudi swam fi ve summers with the Guymon Gators team before being diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, a form of cancer, at age 14 in January 2012. “Emily loved the team,” her mother Kim El-Amoudi said.


“They were always supportive of each other and cheering each other on. Swimming was one of her favorite sports.”


Swimming is often a family affair and Emily’s younger siblings Adam and Lauren also joined the team in 2009 and 2010 respectively. Kim El-Amoudi began serving on the team’s board of directors in 2011 and continues serving today. Emily’s father Hassan El-Amoudi often donates food from his com- pany for concessions at local meets. “The team is always together,” Kim El-Amoudi said. “We’re just like a big extended family.” The summer of 2012, the El-Amoudi children didn’t swim as the family focused on Emily. But that’s not to say they weren’t still part of the team. Swimmers sent Emily their signed heat ribbons and supportive cards as well as photos and Facebook messages. ‘Swim for Emily’ became a team mantra, with many kids writing ‘S4E’ on their caps or bodies during meets. Emily died on July 19, 2012, and the team honored her memory with a swim-a-thon to benefi t her medical fund.


22 WWW.OK-LIVING.COOP


“Emily had a smile that was contagious,” said Cassandra Mussman, a swim parent and current president of the Guymon Gators board. “The way people rallied around her and her family, that’s the spirit of the Gators. She was an amazing girl. It’s like she’s still with us at every single meet.” The Guymon Gators team was founded 45 years ago and is part of the


Western Kansas Swim Club (WKSC), which includes teams in Western Kansas and the Oklahoma and Texas Panhandles. Current coaches Kendra and Shannon Smith are sisters and swam with the Guymon Gators team as children. When their family moved to Elkhart, Kan., in the 1980s, they formed a group of swimmers that became part of the Guymon Gators team. Practices are held separately since the towns are 45 miles apart but the two towns come together to swim as Gators at Saturday swim meets and they hold award ceremonies together. “Competitive swimming is somewhat similar to track meets with different


heats, events and distances,” said Elkhart head coach Kendra Smith. “We have a team atmosphere with an individual emphasis. You’re always aiming for your personal best while trying to win points for the team at the meets.” Shannon Smith, Guymon head coach, couldn’t agree more. “We’re like one big family. The help and support from the parents is amazing and seeing the kids cheer each other on makes your heart happy. Being part of a swim team or program is a wonderful way to work toward goals, make new friends and stay in shape, no matter what age you may be.


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