Steamboat swimmers ride Olympic waves

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The wave of excitement generated by the American Olympic swimmers in Athens made its way to Steamboat Springs.

The more the Steamboat swimmers watched Michael Phelps, Amanda Beard and others win medals, the more excited the young swimmers got about continuing to swim this fall. So for the first time since Essi Kenttala began coaching Team Lightning five years ago, she offered fall swimming as an add-on for those interested.

"I wish the Olympics were in May because they would be swimming with a different attitude during the summer," Kenttala said. "You can see the lights in their head and eyes. They are so excited."

While Kenttala isn't having the swimmers mimic the strokes of Phelps or Beard, she has noticed that all the basic things she and the assistant coaches talked about with their swimmers are starting to click because they watched the Olympians in the pool for more than a week.

There are only 15 swimmers in the pool this fall, but the lower number has allowed for more one-on-one work.

"We are working on technique when we don't have so many swimmers," Kenttala said. "It's not like we are training really, really hard. We're trying to do quality training...we have kids that want to be even faster. They are already thinking about next summer."

This summer went well for Team Lightning.

Steamboat qualified 44 swimmers for the end-of-season Seasonal Club Championship in early August. It was a meet designed only for clubs that swim in the summer. Nineteen Team Lightning swimmers of all ages took part, helping the team finish 10th out of the more than 30 teams.

The winner was Valley Swim, which brought 56 swimmers to the Grand Junction meet. There were more than 460 swimmers at the meet.

Steamboat had several swimmers pick up club championships during the three-day meet. Blake Worsley, 16, won the 50-, 100- and 200-meter freestyle events, taking time off his previous season bests. He swam the 50 in 26.16 seconds and the 100 in 56.89 seconds. His time in the 200 was 2:11.96. His goal was to peak toward the end of the season, which he was successful in doing.

Cole Worsley, 13, was first in the 50 freestyle and the 200 individual medley. His winning time in the 50 free was 27.93, and his winning time in the 200 IM was 2:41:82.

Cameron Osteen, 12, won the 50-meter breaststroke in 41.60 seconds. She also took second in the 100 breaststroke in 1:31:35.

"She had a breakthrough summer," Kenttala said of Osteen.

Blake Worsley also picked up four other top-10 finishes. Cole Worsley picked up six additional top-10 finishes, including two second-place finishes in the 100 and 200 freestyle.

Hestia Chase, 16, placed in the top four in six of her seven individual events. She touched the wall second in the 100 butterfly, 50 free and 100 backstroke.

"She had an incredible meet," Kenttala said. "She is a great example for the fact it's great to stick with swimming. She has found the relaxed way to swim."

Gracy Whelihan, 10, is one of the members of the 10 and younger girls group that assistant Kindra Stanfil said she is excited to see return next season.

Whelihan finished no lower than 11th in any of her seven individual events. She also picked up two second-place finishes in Grand Junction. She was second in the 50 and 100 breaststroke.

Whelihan teamed up with Lucy Newman, 9, Molly Dierdorff, 10, and Mallory Richey, 10, to win the girls 10-and-younger 200-meter medley relay in 3:13:08.

Molly Newman, 12, put her time in at the pool at the Seasonal Club Championships. Newman swam in nine individual events -- more than anyone else.

Other Team Lightning swimmers competing in the Seasonal Club Championships were: Lexie Baden, 10, Anissa Corser, 11; Lucy Franklin, 10; Emma Lichtenfels, 11; Michelle Lichtenfels, 13; Brittany Long, 13; Kristy Marshall, 15; Kelsey Pierson, 13; Olivia Rose, 7; and Sara Stout, 8.

In addition to the competition team, Steamboat's training team grew and contributed to the team points in several meets. The training team met only twice a week, and some of those swimmers are eyeing a jump to the competition team next summer.

"Swimming is getting to be a Steamboat sport in the summertime," Kenttala said.

Helping Kenttala this year were Patti Worsley, Sara Barry, Shafer Henry and Stanfil. The Steamboat swim team practiced at the Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Center all summer, and Kenttala thanked the center for its continued support.

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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