Swimmers follow coach to Glenwood Springs | PostIndependent.com

Swimmers follow coach to Glenwood Springs

Jeff Caspersen
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Chad Spangler Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Damon Garrison flashed a glare Jackie Hynson’s way and pointed to his head.

Hynson and fellow swimmer Kathleen Lyon knew exactly what the gesture meant ” that the strain of Colorado’s altitude is merely a mental obstacle.

“He tells us it’s in our head,” said Hynson, who along with Lyon is in Glenwood Springs for a summer of training with their old club swimming coach, now the Sopris Barracudas’ frontman. “All I know is that I jumped in the pool and couldn’t breathe.”

Hynson and Lyon are quite accustomed to Garrison’s ways, having swum for him the past four years with the Potomac Raiders back in Virginia. When Garrison left his head coaching post with the Raiders in May to come to Glenwood Springs, Hynson and Lyon wanted to follow. For a summer, anyway.

“The girls asked me probably the day after I told them I was leaving,” Garrison recalled. “I was like, ‘Really?’ I thought it’d die down, but they asked again and again.”

So, Garrison, thinking the teenage duo could benefit not only from a summer of high-altitude training but the life lessons gained by going it on your own, proposed the idea to the Sopris Barracudas Board of Directors.

Next thing he knew, host families were in line and Hynson and Lyon were green-lighted to give Colorado a temporary go. They’ll be living in Glenwood Springs with families of Barracuda swimmers for five more weeks; two of those weeks are already in the bag.

“We got here on June 8 and I graduated on June 7,” said Hynson, who more or less grabbed her degree from King George High School and headed west. “I hopped in the plane the next day. People thought I was crazy.”

Lyon starts her senior year at King George, in the fall. Hynson is set to begin her freshman year at Division I Oakland University in Michigan, where she landed a full-ride swimming scholarship.

Hynson will focus on the 100- and 200-meter butterfly in college, while Lyon ” who’ll likely have her choice of a myriad of schools to swim and study at come the end of her prep career ” primarily swims the same as well as distance freestyle events.

Both credit Garrison for at least a sliver of their success.

“He took me from barely making sectionals to being nationally ranked,” Hynson said. “He helped me take 26 seconds off my 200 fly. I owe so much to him.”

That’s why they followed their coach here and, so far, the pool rats are thriving in their new environment.

“We both love it,” Hynson said. “It’s so gorgeous. We’re not used to being able to walk out of Target and see mountains.”

They’re also enjoying helping Garrison coach some of the Barracudas’ younger swimmers. Hynson and Lyon arrive at the Glenwood Springs Community Center pool every morning at 5:30 a.m., go through their training for two or three hours and then shift to coaching.

“We know all the little kids, we know all their names,” Lyon said. “The little kids are so cute. Oh my gosh.”

Hynson and Lyon, in a way, have become big sisters to some of the younger Sopris swimmers ” and to the youngsters in their host families.

“She’s just like our family,” said 9-year-old Kendall Vanderhoof, whose family is providing summer shelter for Hynson. “It’s great to have an older sister.”

Wendy Vanderhoof, the mother of Kendall and 7-year-old Kaitlyn, is impressed by Hynson and Lyon’s commitment to swimming, and hopes that rubs off on every Barracuda.

“Their experience and motivation is quite amazing,” she said. “We have two girls, and it’s good for them to see them as role models.”

That’s right ” role models. Though it’s tough for teenagers to envision themselves as such, Garrison is quick to remind Hynson and Lyon that they’re always being watched.

“The young kids watch ’em race,” he said. “I like to tell the girls that they’re watching you and, as much as you say the Charles Barkley thing ” ‘I’m not a role model’ ” you are a role model.”

It’s all part of the learning experience the summer is providing Hynson and Lyon.

“It’s good for us to be away from home,” Lyon said.

Added Hynson: “This is maturing us a lot. We’re learning to take care of ourselves.”

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