Photo by Matt Stensland
Team Lightning coach Jill Ruppel paddles alongside swim team members during a special open water swim practice Tuesday at Stagecoach Reservoir.
Steamboat Springs Early Tuesday morning, in the confines of the lap lanes at Old Town Hot Springs, the Steamboat Springs Team Lightning swim team took part in an everyday-type of practice.
They swam laps of various strokes and made countless kick turns.
But later Tuesday morning, 25 of the team’s swimmers took advantage of a rare opportunity.
Those two dozen or so teammates headed out to Stagecoach Reservoir for some open water swimming.
It’s illegal to swim in Colorado State Parks lakes outside of designated swim areas, but the team received special clearance and a permit from Stagecoach State Park to do the event.
There were boats and parents patrolling the water in kayaks and paddleboards to ensure the safety of the young swimmers.
“I’ve never been able to swim in here, so it’s even nice for me,” said Sara Barry, a coach for Team Lightning who owns a home on the lake. “It’s very different swimming. This is a mind game. We knew they were all in shape for it, but it’s the dark water and getting your head into it.”
Swimmers started from Barry’s house and swam the Morrison Creek Cove to the boat dock.
All told, they covered roughly 700 yards.
“It’s a little bit harder because you’re cold,” 12-year-old Samantha Terranova said. “There is not like a current, but the water’s movement is different. It’s murkier, and it’s harder to see where you are going. You have to keep lifting your head. But it is fun to just hang out here.”
Barry approached Stagecoach Park Manager Craig Preston last year about the possibility of allowing the swim team to do some open water swimming. It was too late in the year to work out all the details, but Barry kept at it this year.
Because Team Lightning already has insurance and could guarantee that adults with first aid skills would be readily available, Preston said he was excited to give the team the opportunity.
“We worked out the details, put ourselves into it and had a pretty good plan from the start,” Preston said. “She lives out here and has a good feel for what’s allowed and what is not. It’s a very cool event and I was excited.”
Team Lightning’s swimmers will return to the comfort of lap lanes this weekend with a meet in Montrose.