Off to the Olympics

11 Steamboat Springs swimmers qualify for JOs

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— It's amazing what happens when a swimmer's goggles stay on.

Earlier this season, Cameron Osteen, 10, lost her goggles in the middle of the race, but she still managed to swim fast enough to qualify for the upcoming Silver State meet.

A Colorado swimmer age 9-18, however, wants to qualify for one meet the Junior Olympics and Osteen accomplished the feat in two events this summer season.

The Junior Olympics' standards are strict. Swimming as fast or faster than a preset qualification time is required to get in the pool. The time is unattainable by most.

Eleven Steamboat Springs swimmers reached those marks.

Osteen qualified in the 100-meter breaststroke earlier this season but just made the 50-meter breaststroke at last weekend's Western Slope Championships. During those swims, her goggles stayed on.

"When nothing goes wrong during a swim you end up with pretty good times," she said.

Like Osteen, most swimmers know when a race is going well. During her 100-meter breaststroke race that earned her the trip to this weekend's JOs in Grand Junction, Osteen said she got out of the pool after the event, checked her estimated time, ran over to her coach and realized she made the Junior Olympics.

Osteen begins her meet today.

The girls' 9-10 200-meter freestyle relay team of Courtney Garth, Emily Birch, Eva Lambek and Kiersten Henry will join her.

Birch and Garth also qualified for the 50-meter butterfly.

All events will be swum in Grand Junction's 50-meter pool.

Patti Worsley is an assistant coach and works primarily with the 9- and 10-year-olds. She is impressed not only with her kids but with the entire team's performance this season.

"I think we have a very good team," she said. "I'm amazed at how well these kids are doing."

Worsley has two sons on the team, Blake and Cole. Both will be going to the JOs with their mother. Blake, 14, qualified in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle, while Cole, 11, qualified individually in the 50-meter freestyle and as a member of the 11-12 200-meter freestyle and medley relays.

Also on the relay teams are Charlie Stoddard, 11, Michael Weston, 11, and Kyle Steitz, 12.

Stoddard also qualified in the 100-meter butterfly.

"It's a lot more fun to go as a relay," Steitz said. "You don't have that much pressure."

The foursome even has a song to intimidate the opponents. Set to a tune from one of head coach Essi Kenttala's daughter's Blues Clues books, the swimmers tell the other team they aren't as fast as them.

But the big kids don't get to have all the fun.

Beginning on Wednesday, those 8 and younger will take part in a festival similar to the Junior Olympics but for younger swimmers.

The event will be staged in Estes Park, and Kenttala said a handful of her swimmers qualified but only two are going due to prior summer commitments.

Gracy Whelihan, 8, and Lexie Baden, 8, will represent Steamboat. Whelihan swims the backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle, while Baden swims the breaststroke, the freestyle and the butterfly. Assistant coach Christy Warner said the breaststroke and butterfly are the hardest for younger swimmers to pick up in her opinion.

The breaststroke is Whelihan's favorite, and she is excited to compete in the 8-and-Under Festival.

"I knew I was going to make it," she said with a grin and a slight shrug of her shoulders.

The talent in the youngest group of swimmers is something Kenttala has been talking about all season. Warner works with the sprites of the team and shares in the belief there is a load of potential in the bunch.

"We really have enthusiasm," she said. "We really have kids that want to swim. It's fun because I'm seeing swimmers where it didn't click last year just get it this year."

For a majority of Steamboat's swimmers, the season has concluded. The Western Slope Championships last weekend in Grand Junction marked the final time to qualify for the JOs, but it also gave some of Steamboat's swimmers a small taste of the competitive atmosphere they will encounter at this weekend's JOs.

Competing against the entire state, including a large number of year-round programs, Osteen took first in the 50- and 100-meter breaststroke, her JO events.

Cole Worsley finished first in the 200-meter freestyle and second in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle. Stoddard took second in the 200-meter freestyle and third in the 100-meter butterfly and freestyle and the 100-meter backstroke.

Blake Worsley came in second in the 50-meter freestyle.

All four will compete again this weekend.

"We've worked hard these past couple of weeks," Osteen said before she left town Thursday. "This week we tapered our training for JOs."

In addition to Warner and Worsley, Sara Barry, Christine Peters, Jason Jameson and Shafer Henry also worked with the team as assistant coaches.

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