Emma Lichtenfels always has done a good frog impression.
But until last week, the 12-year-old didn't think a youthful pastime could turn into her favorite sport.
On June 25, Lichtenfels qualified for the Junior Olympics again, winning the 50-meter breaststroke with a time of 40.69 seconds at the Meeker Makos Splash.
She already has qualified for the Junior Olympics in the 100-meter breaststroke.
"You should see her breaststroke," Steamboat Springs Swim Teach coach Essi Kenttala said. "She is so smooth."
The breaststroke is one of the more complicated strokes to learn because it is unnatural. The legs aren't allowed to do a freestyle or dolphin kick. Essentially, they come toward the torso and kick out to the sides much like a frog. It's hard to perform it correctly and even harder on the knees.
The arms can't go past the waist.
"I started when I was really little with my dad," Lichtenfels said. "It was my favorite thing to do -- to swim frog-kick all around the pool. I started swim team just because my friend was doing it, and she said it was fun. I never thought I would be swimming events."
Lichtenfels hopes to qualify for the Junior Olympics in the 200-meter breaststroke, as well.
During early season training, Kenttala tries to keep the swimmers' bodies out of the cold, so she uses the breaststroke as a way to practice underwater. Consequently, many team members like the stroke and know how to do it correctly. But few are as fast as Lichtenfels is for her age.
"This season has been a lot better than my other seasons," she said. "I can say a lot of it comes from swim camp. We worked a lot on stroke technique."
Lichtenfels worked with Olympian Scott Usher at a University of Wyoming camp in Laramie.
In Meeker, Lichtenfels took first in the 400-meter freestyle, as well.
Steamboat won the two-day Meeker meet, scoring a combined 2,660.5 points. Rangely was second with 2,246 points. Steamboat had 56 swimmers participate in the meet.
"Our kids were amazing," Kenttala said. "The Steamboat Springs Swim Team colors were everywhere. There were lots of heats with just Steamboat kids. Our kids had a great team spirit."
Steamboat's high points recipients for the Meeker meet were: Malia Fraioli, 8, who won three events in three different strokes. She also got two fourth-place individual finishes. Lucy Newman, 10, won seven individual races, taking first in all four strokes and a 100-meter individual medley race. And Hestia Chase, 17, finished with five first-place swims and one second-place swim.
Other Steamboat swimmers recording top three individual results were: Nikolas Baden, Molly Dierdorff, Keala Fraioli, Lucy Franklin, Erica Gale, Eva Lambek, Max Lambek, Michelle Lichtenfels, Brittany Long, Marlee Loomis, Meghan Lukens, Penn Lukens, Molly Newman, Meg O'Connell, Cameron Osteen, Garrison Osteen, Kane Park, Wesley Park, Alyssa Pierson, Cara Piske, Cody Poirot, Olivia Rose, Emily Stout and Gracy Whelihan.
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