More than 200 young athletes and 10 teams descended on a new look at Cortez Municipal Pool for the Western Slope League youth swimming meet Friday through Sunday.
The Cortez Leopard Sharks hosted nine other teams from Colorado and New Mexico, as well as another special guest brought in by WSL President John Gadbois. Last year, U.S. Olympic silver medalist Kristy Kowal made a special guest appearance at a Craig swim meet. Last weekend, retired three-time U.S. Olympic medalist Margaret Hoelzer appeared at the Leopard Sharks swim meet.
I think thats awesome thats the goal to bring an Olympian down here every year. Im like: Wow. I wish I had that opportunity when I was little. Im thrilled to be here, Hoelzer said. I think one of the most important things for them (kids), is to realize that were real people. I was 8 years old once and I was at swim meets like this on a regular basis. For the kids to see that and to realize that this is possible, yes, it takes a lot of work, but anyone can do it. You just have to go through the right preparation and dedication and all of that.
Hoelzer, 28, is a two-time Olympian and won silver medals in the 200 backstroke and 400-medley relay in 2008 in Beijing, and won a bronze medal in the 100 backstroke. She was raised in Huntsville, Ala., and competed collegiality at Auburn. Hoelzer lives in Seattle and makes appearances across the country for youth swimmers and as a spokeswoman for the National Childrens Advocacy Center, which promotes child abuse response and prevention. In 2008, Hoelzer revealed that she was sexually abused when she was 5 by a friends father.
Im combining an interest of mine that is something I am happy about doing, which is swimming, she said about her work with the NCAC. Obviously, traveling and interacting with kids is important to me, and teaching them about the sport of swimming. The flip side is taking something that was a very horrible experience and, hopefully, educating kids and parents just about the dangers of that (sexual abuse). (Its) not to scare people, but to, you know, be aware of it. Hopefully that will help kids to prevent that from happening, and the kids that are out there that maybe had this happen that never told anybody and never gotten help, theyll get the help they need.
Kids got autographs from and pictures taken with Hoelzer. The Olympian also spoke at a meet-and-greet session at Parque de Vida on Saturday evening for a community potluck and barbecue.
As for the meet, the Leopard Sharks got plenty of strong performances and coach Kevin Ketterer was excited with what he saw.
I am very pleased with our kids this weekend, Ketterer said. The two things that stick out the most from an early season meet is this is probably some of the best technique swimming Ive seen from our kids in an early season meet. (There are) fewer disqualifications than usual in an early season meet for us. On the other end of the spectrum, Im seeing some best times, which is always exciting early in the season.
Jayde Butler, Ahnna Higgins, who swam competitively for the first time, Skylar Robinson and Samantha Bagge won the girls 11-12 200-meter medley relay in 2:57.55. Bagge also took second in the 11-12 200-meter freestyle in 2:59.11. The girls 15-older 400-relay team of Arvola Gray, Emily Harris, Aspyn Gibbs and Brianna Funk won in 5:18.88. Elizabeth McAlpin won the girls 8-under 25-yard backstroke in a time of 24.61.
For the boys, Trenton Bagge won the boys 8-under 50-yard freestyle at 41.29, and was second in the 8-under 25-yard butterfly (21.97) and 25-yard backstroke (22.11). Trenton Bagge was also on the first-place 8-under 100-relay team with Zyron Matteson, Landon Gropp and Troy Thomason, winning in 2:26.13. Sonny Boren, Gavin Taylor, Blair Rice and Skyler Yarbrough won the 11-12 boys 200-relay, finishing in 3:19.83. Boren also placed third in the 11-12 50-meter backstroke (44.98) and fifth in the 11-12 400-meter freestyle (6:55.39).
(We have) really good coaches, Boren said. I want to get the cut for the Junior Olympics in my 50-free.
The Cortez Municipal Pool is one of three 50-meter pools on the Western Slope, with the other two being in Grand Junction, where the next WSL meet will be held Friday through Sunday.
For more information about WSL swimming, log on to www.westernslopeleague.org.
For more information regarding Hoelzer, log on to www.margarethoelzerusa.com.
Reach Bobby Abplanalp at email@example.com.