Steamboat swimmers finally get to compete after enduring a year of practice only |

Steamboat swimmers finally get to compete after enduring a year of practice only

Steamboat Springs Swim Team member Jack George practices his start at the conclusion of practice on Wednesday. Thirteen members of the swim team competed at Pikes Peak this past weekend, their first event in over a year. (Photo by Shelby Reardon)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — After a year of patience and pushing through endless weeks of practice, the Steamboat Springs Swim Team finally had a meet. Since the squad hadn’t competed in a year, head coach Patti Worsley went into the meet at Pikes Peak with an open mind.

The swimmers unleashed a year’s worth of competitive energy, blowing expectations out of the water. Most swimmers cut time in their races, while three posted state-qualifying times.

“They work really, really hard. They deserve everything,” Worsley said. “These kids did so well this weekend. I was so impressed. It was just amazing.”

Odin Gruben, 10, qualified in one event, Kelsey Bryant, 14, qualified in four events and Zoe Anfang, 12, qualified in eight events. Gruben and three others put up times that will be considered for the state meet, depending on how many kids qualified with definitive qualifying times. Gruben put up consideration times in four events, as did Ivy Ladrow, 13. Anthony Maul and Vaugh Higgins earned consideration times in one event each.

“I think I did really well,” said Ladrow, who swam in the 13-14 age group for the first time. “I just aged up, which is scary because all the kids are about a foot taller than me, and I’m over here and really short. I did my best, and I did well.”

Even those who didn’t qualify saw massive improvements, cutting seconds off their times in most events.

“It’s been a while since I had gone to a meet.” said Andy Madden, 14. “I think I got a lot faster. It was really exciting for me to demonstrate that.”

The meet last weekend was the first in over a year for the team. The swim team stopped practicing last March when Old Town Hot Springs, along with the rest of the state, shut down. Practices resumed in June and have been going ever since. That’s all it’s been though: practice.

Competitions are the end to the means, the reason for working hard and the most fun part of the season. Weeks of no competition turned into months. The team thought it would be able to go to a meet in November, but as cases escalated, it could not.

“The motivation was just not there,” Anfang said. “And it was really tough to get up every day and come in knowing you’re not really training for anything.”

Bryant said it was frustrating not having benchmarks to see where she stood against the other swimmers in the state. Without meets, she had no idea if her hard work was paying off.

To keep her kids focused, Worsley altered her practice structure. Already practices were divided up across the day to limit the number of kids in the pool. So, practices were shorter. Worsley said she’ll never go back to two-hour practices.

“It’ll never happen, again,” she said. “You kind of get caught up a little bit in pushing the kids to work harder and harder, and what I’ve learned is you don’t need these long practices. You need the amount of time to get in there, get their work done … and get them out. It’s so much more enjoyable for everybody.”

She also altered what the athletes did during practice. Some days, they worked on strength, some days, they focused on technique, and some days, they all just sat down and talked about what was going on in the world.

Feeding their need to compete, Worsley constructed race days in which the teammates would battle each other.

“She’s just really great at motivating all of us to do our best and try hard every day,” said Katherine Knapp, 16.

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