Team Sopris swimmer is a coach’s dream |

Team Sopris swimmer is a coach’s dream

Jessica Pain
Emma Barsness of Team Sopris swims in the Western Slope IMX Challenge girls 9- to 10-year-old 100-yard freestyle race, in which she finished third Sunday at the Glenwood Springs Community Center pool.
Christopher Mullen / Post Indepedentac |

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Emma Barsness is just like every other swimmer competing for Team Sopris. Then again, she’s not.

Just like every swimmer competing for Team Sopris, she runs over to coach Damon Garrison right after her event has finished to see what her time was. The difference, however, is that Barsness has shown a resolve to continually get better, and that was no more obvious than this past weekend’s Western IMX Challenge at the Glenwood Springs Community Center.

“Because she is so open to getting better, she will,” Garrison said.

Barsness, 10, is a third-year swimmer for Team Sopris — a year-round swim program for anyone who lives in the Roaring Fork Valley, and nearby communities like Rifle and Vail. Garrison has coached swimming for 17 years and, prior to Team Sopris, he coached seven years in Virginia.

“Right now her best swims are [individual medleys], which means she has had an overall development on all strokes.”
Team Sopris coach Damon Garrison

“This meet is unique in the sense that it advocates greater participation and development across a range of events — every swimmer must swim all four stokes,” the sixth-year Team Sopris coach said.

The meet promotes Garrison’s goal for every swimmer to be prepared to compete to the maximum of his or her ability. For this to be possible, he instills a hard work ethic on his swimmers. None of his swimmers are one-stroke swimmers. This means they can compete in freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke or butterfly.

In this weekend’s event at the Glenwood Springs Community Center more than 200 youth swimmers from nine Colorado club swim teams participated in the Western IMX Challenge. Barsness, who attends Sopris Elementary School, is one of those swimmers, and her favorite stroke is breaststroke because it’s the easiest for her to swim.

This weekend, she broke all of her personal records. In the 50-yard breaststroke, she finished in 46.77 seconds and in the 100, 1:36.76.

Her least favorite stroke is freestyle, but she still strives to do her best. She swam the 50 freestyle in 36.96, and the 100 in 1:28.88.

“I want to try the 200 freestyle,” she said. “Because coach always pushes us to swim and improve on the strokes we may not like as much.”

For the 50 backstroke, she finished in 42.20. In the 50 butterfly, she finished in 51.00.

Garrison described Barsness as exciting overall. “She always comes to practice with a positive attitude, which is refreshing to see,” he said.

He has seen vast improvement from Barsness over the years, and because she is so young, he said she will continue to grow and improve.

“Right now her best swims are [individual medleys], which means she has had an overall development on all strokes,” he said.

In the 100 IM, she finished in 1:38.79, and in the 200, 3:17.84.

“When I finish a race, I feel amazing,” she said. “I feel like signing the song ‘Jingle Bells’ mainly because I want to get back into the Christmas spirit, but there are also times when I would rather go to bed!”

Not only does Barsness swim, but also she plays soccer, basketball, runs, and participates in alpine ski racing and Nordic skiing.

“I am one busy fourth-grader,” she said. “But I love being busy.”

When she is not in the pool, on the field or on the mountain she likes to relax. She will read a book, watch some television or shoot hoops.

Sometimes she will climb the mountain behind her house. Her family calls it “Barsness Mountain.” And her parents are her support system. “They are always cheering me on,” she said.

Her favorite swimmers are Missy Franklin and Michael Phelps. She likes Franklin because she always swims with a positive attitude and always strives to do her best, she said.

Barsness plans to swim with Team Sopris into her teens, and her overall goal is to continue to improve on strokes and times.

“Coach does a great job helping me improve my technique, form and strength,” she said. “And with what he teaches me I improve my speed.”

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