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Y Water Rats Honored at Annual Recognition Night

Graduating seniors from the Y’s Water Rat Swim Team at the annual Recognition Night, held at Bedford Middle School, with Head Coach Ellen Johnston (l to r): Matt Wetmore, Sarah Cooperman, Naina Thota, Robert DeLuca and Maddie Prangley. Not pictured: David Fleming.

Graduating seniors from the Y’s Water Rat Swim Team at the annual Recognition Night, held at Bedford Middle School, with Head Coach Ellen Johnston (l to r): Matt Wetmore, Sarah Cooperman, Naina Thota, Robert DeLuca and Maddie Prangley. Not pictured: David Fleming.

The Water Rat Parents Club and Y Swim Coaches hosted the annual WRAT Recognition Night at Bedford Middle School on Friday, Apr. 26. Nearly 300 guests were on hand for a celebratory dinner, followed by an awards ceremony for graduating seniors and special recognition of other members of the 2012-2013 Westport Weston Family Y’s 200-member youth swim team.

Find more photos from the night on the Family Y Facebook page, and this slideshow on the Water Rat’s web pages.

Sarah Cooperman received the Water Rats Parents’ Club Bob Knoebel Scholarship, which honors Bob Knoebel, who retired as the Family Y’s Aquatics Director and 8 & Under swim coach in 2005. During his 29 years at the Y, Bob was very involved in community activities and events, creating the Point-to-Point Swim at Compo Beach, held each July, and the Strong Kids Triathlon, which the Y hosts at Staples High School each September.

This award is presented to a graduating senior who started swimming as an 8 & Under and who is involved in an activity of interest outside of swimming.  Sarah has volunteered at the Maritime Center of Norwalk for a number of years. Additionally, she was selected by Gault Energy in alliance with Polar Bear International as an Arctic Ambassador; she traveled to Churchill, Manitoba – known as the Polar Bear Capital of the World – with other youth to learn about and discuss global initiatives.

Apr. 26 2013 Rogers2Naina Thota received the Andrew Sawyer Memorial Award for her contributions to the team. The award honors Andrew Sawyer, who competed for the Water Rats in the 1980s. A nationally ranked swimmer, Andrew was the quintessential teammate.  He knew everyone’s name on the team and always had nice things to say to and about people. Lost at a young age due to an undetected heart defect, Andrew embodies the Y’s core values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility.

Charlie West received the Cameron Bruce Memorial Award for representing the ideals of the Family Y in and out of the pool. The award honors Cameron Bruce, a former Water Rat, who died in an accident in 2010 at Queens University in Ontario. Not only was Cameron a talented swimmer, he was also a gifted musician and devoted volunteer who was deeply engaged in his community during his childhood in Westport.

The award in Cameron’s memory is presented to a Water Rat swimmer who steps up and shows on his/her own how to give back the Water Rat Swim Team, the Y and the community. Last year, Charlie spearheaded the “Swim for Bucks” swim-a-thon to raise money for the Y’s Building What Matters Capital Campaign to fund and construct a new facility at its 32-acre Mahackeno campus just north of downtown Westport.

Mary Cooperman is this year’s recipient of the Ann Atkinson Volunteer of the Year Award. It’s given in memory of a Water Rat parent who recognized that the success of a non-profit organization like the Y is due to its volunteer corps.  Ann developed the PET-WRAT program, which offers swim parents ways in which they can volunteer and earn credit.  This program has become the model for many swim teams throughout the country.

Apr. 26 2013 HunterMary Cooperman, the mother of Sarah, is a dedicated Water Rat parent and Y volunteer who, like Ann Atkinson, knows that much of the important work at our charitable organization is accomplished behind the scenes. From helping to develop and maintain the Water Rat website to contributing her design talents to the Building What Matters campaign, to being involved with the Parents Club Nominating Committee and helping with many years of swim-meet needs, Mary exemplifies the selfless service that Ann Atkinson performed and inspired in others.

“The success of our team is not solely in the water,” says Ellen Johnston, Head Coach. “We have a tremendous support group in our parents as we strive to help develop each swimmer to be the best they can be, in and out of the pool.  Our swimmers are a wonderful group of young people who are willing to challenge themselves, who are stellar ambassadors of the Water Rat Swim Team and who develop vital life skills and life-long friendships along the way.”

The Water Rat Swim Team is a year-round, nationally recognized competitive swim program organized and operated by the Aquatics Department of the Westport Weston Family Y.  The Water Rats compete in Y competition at the local level through dual meets and at the state and national level. The team is also a registered USA Swimming Team sanctioned by Connecticut Swimming, Inc. and competes in USA competitive swimming at the local, regional, state, zone and national level.

For more information about the Family Y’s Water Rat Swim Team, visit or contact Ellen Johnston at 203-226-8981, ext. 110 or

Apr. 26 2013 Group 1