Swimmers show strength in numbers

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— The Steamboat Springs Swim Team opens the summer season with its only home meet of the year Saturday.

Eight teams from the Western half of the state will join Steamboat for a daylong meet at the Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Center.

The morning session starts at 8 a.m. with the 9-10 division and the 13-and-over division.

The afternoon session will begin at about 1 p.m. with the 8-and-under and the 11-12 divisions.

The lap pool will be closed to the public during the meet.

Essi Kenttala enters her fourth year as the head coach for Team Lightning. Patti Worsley, Sara Barry and Shafer Henry are the assistant coaches again this season.

"Most of our swimmers are returning from last year and that always is really exciting," Kenttala said. "It's easier to develop a better program when the coaches and swimmers stay on."

Worsley is in her third year assisting Kenttala with the competitive team. Barry and Henry will help out with the training team for the second year. The training team is a group of swimmers who do not compete but attend practices to improve their skills.

Ally Packer, the only new addition to the coaching staff, will be working with the 8-and-under swimmers.

Kenttala said more than 80 children joined the swim team, though not all will compete. She expects 68 swimmers to race Saturday, as Team Lightning works to defend the team title it earned last year.

"I think this is the most we've ever had," Kenttala said. "Our goal is to keep the trophy."

Kenttala received news from the Health and Rec that swimmers will be unable to use blocks Saturday because the pool is too shallow in spots to allow them.

Four lanes are deep enough for blocks, but running a meet with hundreds of swimmers in four lanes would be impractical.

Had this Steamboat meet existed later in the schedule, Kenttala said she doubted many teams would have shown up because swimmers need blocks to post better times and qualify for postseason races.

With an earlier meet, it doesn't create as much of a problem, Kenttala said.

"It's the first meet of the year, and there are a lot of inexperienced swimmers who wouldn't use blocks, anyway," she said. "There are so many young kids, so it's kind of a relief for them. Some of our swimmers still can't believe it."

Rifle, Sopris (Carbondale), Grand Junction, Aspen, Craig, Rangely and Meeker will be participating at Saturday's meet with Steamboat.

The public is welcome to attend.

--To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208

or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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