Swimming in the rain — and snow | SteamboatToday.com
Melinda Mawdsley

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Swimming in the rain — and snow

When Team Lightning coach Essi Kenttala awoke early Saturday morning, she was delighted. The sound of raindrops had stopped, which meant the weather might cooperate during Steamboat Springs’ only swim meet of the season.

Then she looked outside: Snow. In June. Great.

“It’s the perfect weather for a ski race,” Kenttala said. “Which is kind of funny since a lot of our swimmers are skiers.”

There wasn’t much Kenttala or any of the dozens of volunteers could do but laugh and keep their spirits up Saturday, as hundreds of children swam despite the rain and snow.

“I didn’t know if I wanted to swim,” said Callie Hvambsal, 11.

“I was excited because it was my first meet, but I was worried it was going to be cold,” said Ali Diehl, 11.

Both girls were hanging out with Mallory Hoots, 11, in the Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Center’s small heated pool between events.

The smaller pool, the sauna and the indoor lobby of the Health and Rec were popular places Saturday.

During the morning meet, ice had to be scraped off the starting blocks. Kenttala gave Team Lightning a pep talk before the meet began.

“I told them I don’t care about times,” she said. “I told them to believe in themselves that they could do this. After the morning meet, they were like, ‘This was actually fun. A swim meet in snow.'”

The sun peeked out just before 2 p.m., but it gave way to heavy rain shortly thereafter.

Libby Lukens, 6, sat dressed in her Steamboat Springs Swim Team outfit and swim cap. Saturday was the kindergartner’s second meet. Kenttala had hoped the inclement weather wouldn’t turn children and adults off to the idea of swimming in Steamboat Springs.

With “I’m Lightning Fast” written on her back in black marker and a smile on her face, Lukens jumped into the pool and swam the 25-meter backstroke for the second time in competition.

The smile never faded from her face when she got out and went straight to the small heated pool.

“I wanted to swim to win ribbons,” Lukens said. “My favorite event is the backstroke because when I was only 4 I was really good at it.”

Swimming has become a popular sport in Steamboat in recent years. More than 80 local children competed Saturday, and Kenttala estimates that more than 90 are out for swim team this year. Team Lightning’s next meet is Saturday in Meeker.

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