Barracudas head for regionals
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. Though in her final days as the Sopris Barracudas coach, Kirsten Gray isn’t employing a lame-duck approach.Quite the opposite, actually. On Tuesday, she was in full coaching form, enthusiastically directing her swimmers through drills from the lifeguard chair at the Glenwood Springs Community Center pool.After a summer of bonding with her nearly 80-swimmer team, the interim coach is set to lead the team at a meet for the last time this weekend: at the Western Slope Regionals in Rangely. Then, it’s one more week of practice before she’s off to start a P.E. teaching gig in Shanghai, China. Gray, who will leave Glenwood on July 27, will hand off the coaching baton – temporarily, anyway – to former high school state titlist Emily McDonald for the July 26-29 state meet at Grand Junction’s Lincoln Park.The Barracuda program should have a new coach in place soon.First things first, though. Gray is busily preparing her young splashers for this weekend’s three-day Western Slope Regionals in Rangely.
The coach is quite optimistic after watching personal bests fall like dominos at last weekend’s Montrose Invitational. And, that, Gray insists, is the best part about coaching.”It’s fun to see them dropping all this time,” she said with a wide smile. “It’s so fun to see the kids take 5 seconds off a relatively short swim – 50 or 100 yards. It’s just fun to see them succeed, the look on their faces.”With kids shaving times across the board, Gray hopes to see a few more Barracuda state-meet qualifiers emerge from regionals. Currently, only 11-year-old Jack Cassidy (200-yard breaststroke) and the 9-10 boys 200 freestyle relay team have notched state-qualifying times. The late-season success has Gray wishing she could stick around Glenwood for just a bit longer.”I’m bummed I can’t stay one more week,” she said. “They’ve come a long way.”But Gray is relishing the time she has left in the states. With a summer chock-full of grueling three-day meets and early-morning practices, she’s done her best to toss little rewards the kids’ way. She took her swimmers rafting last week, and ended practice on Tuesday by turning the kids loose on the community center’s pool slide. She had other treats in store as the week wore on.
Gray waxed wistful in addressing her looming departure.”I’m ready to keep going, but I’ve gotta turn it over,” she said. “China’s a new adventure for me. I’m excited. I’m in a position where I’m saying goodbye to something good, but moving on to something good. It’s a strange feeling.”The three-day Western Slope Regionals kick off Friday and run through Sunday.
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