YMCA Swimming: Stingrays aiming high, hitting the mark
WORTHINGTON — For over two decades, the Worthington Area YMCA has used swimming as one of the plethora of ways it instills the lesson of setting and achieving goals in the lives of area youngsters.
The competitive swim team, known as the Stingrays, is coached by Donna Damm. The team boasts swimmers from nearly every area community and school district. It has athletes of all ages and abilities. They travel, competing in meets from November through March.
“We’re happy with the kids we have,” Damm commented. “They work hard and have fun. The goal is to have the kids improve themselves, have good competition and have fun.”
One of the benchmarks swimmers set for themselves this season was to qualify for a regional meet slated for April at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities. Each swimmer qualifies for the meet by reaching a qualifying time. That magic mark differs from event to event.
Thirteen swimmers from Worthington’s team have already punched their tickets to regionals and Damm thinks more might follow in their footsteps as the season continues. The regional meet is held by the Minnesota Youth Athletic Services. It is a hard one to get into and draws swimmers from several different organizations across 14 states including the YMCA, USA Swimming and more.
Swimmers who qualify for the regional meet see their season continue after the rest of the team is done.
“This is one of my largest groups that has qualified for regional competition this early in the season. You have to have a really good time to get into that meet,” Damm said. “If you make it into that meet you know you’re good. That is the highlight of my year, when kids who have worked so hard achieve their goals.”
A sectional meet and state meet will be held prior to regionals. Several Stingray swimmers took part in the state meet last season. It is also held at the University.
The Stingrays practice three evenings per week. All ages develop all four competitive strokes including butterfly, breast, back and freestyle. Some of the squad’s swimmers are multi-sport athletes and swim when it works for them.
The team will put their talents on display today at their first home meet of the season. Ridgedale and Albert Lea come to town for an 11 a.m. meet. Both are small teams in comparison to the Stingrays. Athletes will compete in events against their own age group and gender.
The next home meet, after today, will be January 4 when Spirit Lake comes calling.
“You’ll generally see the Worthington swimmers put on a good performance,” Damm said of today’s meet. “I think people will see how much the kids enjoy it and want to do well. They enjoy the competition.”