Glenwood Springs’youth swim club members qualify for Junior Olympics |

Glenwood Springs’youth swim club members qualify for Junior Olympics

Baron Zahuranec
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Sports, almost by definition, contain some sort of competitive nature. When people think of the competition, the thought of many straight, solemn faces along a sideline could be conjured up.

The complete opposite may be true when it comes to swimming.

Young, local swimmers tried to attain a Junior Olympic qualifying spot at the second annual Deep Freeze Invitational on Saturday and Sunday in the Glenwood Springs Community Center’s pool.

These kids, mostly 8-year-olds to teenagers, just can’t help but have a smile on their face. They do get to play in a pool all day long; that must help.

More than 130 swimmers from clubs in Glenwood Springs, Montrose, Delta, Grand Junction, Summit and Aspen made the trip.

Most of the Sopris Barracudas, Glenwood’s youth swim club, were at the meet. They were there just as much to shave time off their events as they were to be with friends.

“Swimming’s always great. It’s so much fun,” 12-year-old Jack Cassidy said. “I like the fact that you’re with a team, and it’s a completely different sport.”

“Almost every other sport is on land and your body is in a totally different form when swimming,” he added.

He’s been with the Barracudas for five or six years and is a seventh-grader at Eagle Valley Middle School.

Cassidy made Junior Olympic qualifying times in the 200-yard breaststroke and 100-yard butterfly, and was the third leg in the 200-yard medley relay.

“I swam really great. I dropped time in everything,” Cassidy said.

Not all Barracudas were swimming, though. Kendall Vanderhoof, 10, couldn’t be in the pool, even though she really, really wanted to. She had a cast on her right wrist from a biking accident last Sunday.

She’s hoping to get the cast off the day after Christmas, right before her family goes to Mexico for vacation. If it doesn’t come off then, Jan. 5 is the date.

“I did not like not swimming,” the St. Stephen’s fifth-grader said. “I saw the events I was supposed to be in and I did not feel good about it.”

Vanderhoof has been with the Barracudas for three years and likes that each year, “You can get faster and faster.”

Jessica Tuttle, 10, a fifth-grader at Sopris Elementary School, was sitting beside Vanderhoof. They both watched the action from their pool-side perch.

Tuttle had a Junior Olympic time in the 200-yard freestyle and earned silver in the 50-yard freestyle, 50-yard backstroke, 50-yard butterfly and 200-yard medley relay.

“I like that you can be with friends and can compete,” Tuttle said. “I’ve been with the Barracudas for five years. I started when I was 5 at the hot springs. It was just really fun, and I’m glad to be a swimmer.”

Thinking like a much older athlete, the first thing Tuttle said about her swim coach, Damon Garrison, was that, “He’s gotten us in shape.”

“He really isn’t afraid of anything,” Tuttle added. “If you don’t get a good time, he’ll threaten you in a good way to try and get your time to where it should be.”

Someone else who also likes trimming time is Charlie Mechling, 10, a fifth-grader at Sopris Elementary School.

She swam in eight events over the weekend, earning a Junior Olympic qualifying spot in the 200-yard freestyle and swimming the first leg of the 200-yard freestyle relay, and was the second leg of the 200-yard medley relay.

She really likes her coach, too.

“He’s the best we’ve ever had,” Mechling said of Garrison. “He’s a lot like me, wild and crazy, exactly like me. He can have fun with us, but he knows when we need to swim. He can make the workouts hard, but it pays off in the end.”

One of the older Barracudas is 18-year-old Austin Butts, from Glenwood Springs. He’s a freshman at Colorado Mountain College studying for his Associate of Science with an emphasis in physics.

This is his first year with the club, and like Mechling, likes Garrison’s coaching.

“The coach is very passionate and so are the kids,” Butts said. “It’s a fun sport overall. You can work on all your strokes and watch your times go down in every event.”

He swam in the 100-yard breaststroke, and 50 and 200-yard freestyle.

He wasn’t too pleased with his performance. His 50-free was all right, even with a shaky flip-turn, he said, but he could’ve worked harder on the other two.

“I’ve been lazy at practice for sure,” he admitted. “It didn’t really hit me until I got to the meet that I needed to get my butt in shape.”

He’s sure to carry a smile on his face, even if he’ll be working that much harder the rest of the season.

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