Steamboat swimmers dedicated to sport

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— It's an ordinary day at the Old Town Hot Springs lap pool with some not-so-ordinary swimmers.

More than 60 swimmers of all ages fill the lanes. It's early morning - a time most children reserve for sleeping and cartoons.

But for Team Lightning - the Steamboat Springs summer swim team - it's just another day of practice at the pool.

Team Lightning features two sessions, an early one for swimmers ages 11 and older and a later-morning session for younger swimmers.

"Later" is a relative term, as the younger swimmers start at 8:30 a.m. with the older swimmers making their first splash often before 7 a.m.

"No, we should be swimming," 9-year-old Frank Ruppel said, when asked if he'd rather be sleeping. "It's really fun. Plus when you swim, it's better for your body."

The early practices and large numbers have appeared to pay off for Team Lightning. The team has won two meets and finished just 50 points out of first at another.

"We could easily have a team of 200 kids if we had the room," coach Essi Kenttala said.

Kenttala said this is the biggest the team has ever been, with more than 100 swimmers showing up overall, and 80 to 90 that show up on a regular basis.

For many of the swimmers, the summer wouldn't be summer without swimming.

"I really like swimming," said 14-year-old Lucy Franklin, who set the pool record in the 200-meter backstroke at the Aspen meet. "I've done it for 10 years. I can't imagine summers not doing it and not getting up in the morning."

Although Steamboat doesn't have any official home meets, Kenttala said the team will hold a mock meet Tuesday for its developmental team and a mock meet Thursday for its more advanced swimmers.

On July 12, the team will head to Craig with 101 swimmers. The following weekend, the team will attend the Western Slope Championships in Grand Junction.

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