Steamboat Springs More than a half dozen different swim teams arrived at the Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation pool last Saturday seeking the first title of the season, but by the time the races were completed later that afternoon it was clear the visitors would be leaving empty handed.
"It's the first time in my memory that I can remember winning this meet," Steamboat Springs swim coach Essi Kenttala said. She has been coaching the team for three years. "I think it is the first time we have won it in a long time."
The members of the Steamboat's Team Lightning scored 546 points en route to winning the meet. Craig placed second at 323 and Sopris came in third with 268.
"I think the first meet of the season is the hardest," Steamboat Springs swimmer Tina Roberts said. " It's the meet where you set the pace for the whole year."
Roberts and her teammates managed to set a blistering pace in the only home meet of the 2002 season. Roberts won four individual events en route to the high point in her age division. She also set personal best marks in the 50-yard butterfly (26.97), 100 backstroke (45.43), 50 breaststroke (50.75) and 50 freestyle (36.84).
"I'm just hoping that I can keep it up all year," Roberts said.
Kenttala thinks there are two reasons for the team's early season success the team's increased size and the results of several key swimmers.
"I think both things are contributing to our success," Kenttala said. "This is the most swimmers we have ever had on the team and we have more swimmers coming back with experience than ever before."
Four of the 68 Steamboat swimmers in the meet finished at the top of their age division. The Steamboat team collected 21 first-place finishes, 19 second place and 17 third-place finishes in the meet.
Roberts earned top honors in the 15 to 18 division, Paul Rose was tops in the 14-15 division, Cole Worsley won the 11-year-old group and 8-year-old Patrick Weston was first in his class.
"It was the first meet of the season, so I was really nervous," Rose said of the meet. 'I wasn't sure what to expect."
But at the day's end the Steamboat Springs swimmer had collected first place finishes in the 50 free and 200 Individual medley where he trimmed nearly 20 seconds from his personal best. He also took home silver medals in the 100 breast and 100 free.
"I just went out and did the best I could," Rose said.
Rose is just 13 years old, but has elected to swim up in the older division along with teammate Blake Worsley this summer. Worsley had first-place finishes in the 100 back and 100 free. He lost out to teammate Rose in the individual medley and for the high point award, which goes to the best swimmer in each class.
Other high point winners included Cole Worsley in the 11-year-old group. He collected first-place finishes in the 50 free, 50 breast and 100 free and was also second in the 50 back.
His teammate Patrick Weston topped the 8-and-under group by placing first in the 25 fly, second in the 25 breast and 25 free and third in the 25 back.
The Steamboat meet was the first of six regular season events for the team this year. The squad will also compete in four post-season competitions including the Western Slope Championships, the 8-and-under Festival, the Silver States and the Junior Olympics.
The Steamboat team has a total of 80 swimmers taking part in the program this summer thanks in part to a new training program which allows some of the less serious swimmers to train just twice a week.
Kenttala is hoping those swimmers will get a taste of what the sport is like and then move into the more competitive group when the get older.
This weekend the coach expects about 30 athletes to go to Saturday's meet in Rangely. She is expecting to take about twice as many swimmers to an even bigger meet in Sopris on June 15th.