Members of the Beaufort Masters swim team consider themselves lucky enough just to have a squad in a town this size.
That they bagged a coach with the credentials of Carlton Bruner has them downright giddy. Bruner, a former Olympian, fills the position resigned by 90-year-old Dick Fetters earlier this year.
"We're so lucky," said Pete Palmer, chairman of the Historic Beaufort Foundation and Masters team member the past 11 years. "We can't pay him what he's worth. But we've got him."
Bruner, 39, swam for the University of Florida in the early 1990s and later for the U.S. Olympic team at the 1996 games in Atlanta, Bruner's hometown. He was chosen as Masters coach by a vote of team members after conducting practices during a trial period held for candidates.
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Bruner moved to Beaufort after tiring of Atlanta's growth and traffic. He joined the Masters team to meet people and was surprised at the size of the group.
Palmer said Bruner has impressed with the drills he chooses and his attention paid to each swimmer, no matter the skill level. Thinking about the different parts of the stroke can be a chore, Palmer said, Bruner's drills help with that.
"He really gets us thinking about such neat things that you stop thinking about getting to the other end and are thinking about what you're doing," Palmer said.
Under Fetters, who started the Masters team at Parris Island more than 20 years ago, the Beaufort group has experienced annual success at the state level. The team competes in three big state meets each year, short course yards, short course meters and long course meters.
Other events are sprinkled in throughout the year, with members traveling to events in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia. One of Bruner's premises is to invite anyone who wants to swim to join the team.
New members can partake in practices for a couple weeks before deciding whether to join, he said.
The group practices at Beaufort Indoor Pool and Bruner has talked to the YMCA about forming a partnership if the need for more pool space arises.
Fetters required that team members compete in meets to join the team, and so the club differed from many where participants swim only for fitness. Bruner said he would relax the requirement to a degree, asking swimmers to compete in two of the three state meets with plans to re-evaluate next year.
Part of the sacrifice Bruner made when becoming coach last month was to give up swimming with the team. He said the time required to do the job correctly meant he couldn't also participate.
But he still stays in shape the best he can in order to swim in various charity events.
"Swimming is certainly near and dear to my heart," he said. "... I'll stay in it. I'll find a way."