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Tarpons remember former teammate

South Lafourche junior swimmer Natalie Dufrene (front) holds a T-shirt honoring former teammate Dylan Danos, who died on Jan. 5 following a lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis. Also pictured are junior Nicholas Guidry (back row, from left), coach Connie Callais, coach Corey Callais and senior Brody Eymard. (Photo by Brent St. Germain/Staff)

CUT OFF — The South Lafourche swim team does not have to look far to find inspiration for the 2012 season.

Hanging on the wall at the Cut Off Youth Center Swimming Pool is a picture of Dylan Danos, which includes one of his most memorable sayings: "The greatest pleasure in life is doing what other people said you cannot do."

Danos lived by that saying as a member of the South Lafourche swim team. He defied the odds to become a member of the team despite a lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis, which led to a double-lung transplant on Aug. 3, 2011.

Though the surgery gave Danos a new lease on life, allowing him to return to the swimming pool and compete in a district meet for the South Lafourche swim team, his battle with the disease came to an end Jan. 5 when it took his life.

Although he is no long with the team physically, South Lafourche swimming coach Corey Callais said Danos, who was going to be a senior this season, will always be a part of the Tarpons.

"He is a very big part of this team all the way back to last season," Callais said. "He touched so many lives and was an inspiration to not only the team but to the school and entire community. He touched so many lives when he was alive, but he touched so many more since his passing. It takes a special individual to do that."

Danos' teammates always knew swimming was a challenge for him because of the breathing problems associated with cystic fibrosis.

Senior Brody Eymard said he was inspired by Danos' determination.

"He never quit no matter what," Eymard said. "Even when he couldn't breathe, he still didn't quit. We want to show everyone how much he means to us by dedicating the season to him. He worked harder than all of us. If he could only do two laps, those two laps were a lot harder than the 50 we did.

"It's kind of discouraging because we are so used to seeing him here. He was always here. It's kind of weird not having him here, but it makes us work harder in the long run."

Senior Lenna Guidry said the team is using Danos' determination and drive as a source of inspiration for the 2012 season.

"He always competed no matter how cold the water was or hard the workout was," she said. "Watching him compete made us work harder. Sometimes when we think it is hard, we think of him, and it motivates us to bite our tongues and do it."

Swimming for Danos has inspired South Lafourche to continue its winning ways. Following Monday's meet in the Bayou District, the Tarpons have posted three wins.

Callais said he is proud of the way the team is keeping Danos in their thoughts and using his memory as a source of inspiration.

"It's been real easy coaching the team this year because when someone gets tired, all they do is look at Dylan's picture, and they know what to do," he said. "When they are tired, hurting and can't catch their breath, they know that is how Dylan swam every lap. It gives them that little extra drive."

Junior Nicholas Guidry said he thinks of Danos whenever he is in the pool, and that has been a good source of motivation for the 2012 season.

"We definitely have something more than our personal goals motivating us," he said. "We want to do it for him. It adds to the intensity of the meets. I know he is definitely proud of us. I think he's with us every stroke while we are in the pool."

The South Lafourche swim team's decision to dedicate the season to Danos has also helped inspire his parents — Troy and Angie Danos.

"It is an honor that the swim team is dedicating their season to Dylan," Troy Danos said. "Swimming meant so much to him, and I'm sure from up high that he really appreciates it."

After hearing that the team dedicated the season to her son, Angie Danos brought a picture of her son with his words of advice — "The greatest pleasure in life is doing what other people said you cannot do" — to the team.

The swim team is also selling T-shirts honoring Dylan Danos, which includes his words of advice.

"We can't say enough about what (coach) Connie (Callais) and Corey have done," Angie said. It's really exciting that they put his quote on the shirt because it shows that he is still with them."

Junior Natalie Dufrene said losing Danos was tough for the entire team, but they are planning on keeping his memory alive with another strong showing at the Bayou District Meet, scheduled for Oct. 22 at the Cut Off pool. The South Lafourche boys have won 10 straight district title, and the girls have won eight in a row.

"Every day we say do it for Dylan and just swim your best. This was his favorite sport," she said.

Corey Callais said Danos has had a profound impact on the South Lafourche swim team, and he will always be a part of the team.

"He will always be a part of this team, and he will always look over us," Callais said. "He was an inspiration when he was with us and even now when he is gone. He is one of our team leaders even though he is not here. His spirit will carry us for years."