Team Sopris plays host to IM Challenge meet | PostIndependent.com
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Team Sopris plays host to IM Challenge meet

Joey Fetzko Contributed photoTeam Sopris swimmer Austin Hawkins, 12, cheers on his teammate, Will Berkheimer, 9, at the Western Slope IM Challenge meet.

Team Sopris, the local club swim team, hosted its third annual IM Challenge swim meet this past weekend.

More than 160 swimmers descended upon the Glenwood Springs Community Center May 19 and 20 to compete in a variety of Individual medley challenges.

Swimmers from Team Sopris, Aspen, Steamboat, Grand Junction, Gunnison and Montrose chose a challenge category based on age group and ability and competed for trophies and bragging rights.

Challenges ranged from the 8-and-under IM challenge, a 25-yard race of each stroke (butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle) plus a 100-yard individual medley (one length of each stroke) to the IMX Challenge (200 yards of each stroke plus a 500-yard freestyle, a 200-yard individual medley and a 400-yard individual medley) and the distance challenge (500-yard freestyle, 1,000-yard freestyle, 1650-yard freestyle and a 400-yard individual medley).

“Western Slope League teams love the format of this meet,” said Team Sopris head coach Damon Garrison. “We always get great turnout from summer teams like Steamboat and Gunnison, who tell us they look forward to our meet every year.”

Hosting 160 swimmers and their families is a huge effort and is also an economic boon to the town at a typically slower time, event organizers noted. Many of the teams stay at local hotels and eat at local restaurants.

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“A big thank you to the visiting teams for coming and to our team for all their help,” said Brenda Grumley, meet director for Team Sopris. “For a meet this size, it takes a lot of coordination and cooperation by the Team Sopris parents. We have a great group of parents and sponsors and without their assistance, this meet would not have been such a success.”

Many of the swimmers who competed at the IM Challenge for Team Sopris are new to the team and this was their first meet.

“It’s less intimidating for the new swimmers to compete in their home pool, where they’re familiar with everything,” Garrison continued. “Even so, there is a lot to learn at your first meet, so we have implemented a buddy system that works really well.”

New swimmers were paired with a more “veteran” swimmer on the team, who helped them understand the heat sheets and made sure they made it to the blocks in time for their race. Of course, cheering on their buddy was also a big part of their job.

“The team spirit we had at this meet was awesome. We had some great swims, but this was really about coming together and supporting each other as teammates,” Garrison said. “Many of our older swimmers got their first taste of competition at our home meet, so they could relate to what the new swimmers were feeling. The younger kids really look up to our older, more experienced swimmers who in turn get a lot from mentoring the new kids. It’s a win-win.”

In addition to the IM Challenge meet, Team Sopris hosted a fundraiser and silent auction at the community center Saturday evening, raising more than $2,000. The Glenwood Springs High School girls swim team provided baby-sitting services at the event as a fundraiser for their self-funded program.

“The community support for Team Sopris, both high school teams and our masters swimming program has been phenomenal. We wouldn’t be where we are today without it,” Garrison concluded.

Team Sopris is now accepting registration for its summer season. Swimmers of all abilities from age 6 and up are welcome to join the team. Information, including practice schedules, meet schedules, tryout times and more, can be found on the team’s website at http://www.teamsopris.org.