6 Stingray swimmers ready for Midwest RegionalsMINNEAPOLIS — By Saturday, the state high school basketball games will have left University of Minnesota’s campus behind for either the bright lights of the Target Center across town or the third-place games at Concordia University.
MINNEAPOLIS — By Saturday, the state high school basketball games will have left University of Minnesota’s campus behind for either the bright lights of the Target Center across town or the third-place games at Concordia University.
But for those students looking to get their sports fix, fear not — there will still be plenty of action going on across the street from Williams Arena at the U of M’s Aquatic Center, where the 2010 YMCA Midwest Regional Swim Meet begins today.
Six Worthington Stingray swimmers qualified for the competition, which will include nearly 1,200 participants from seven different states across the YMCA’s Midwest Region.
Of those half dozen Stingrays which made it, five will be free styling it this weekend (as in their race stroke, the freestyle).
Kari Engelkes will compete in the Girls 18 & Under 50, 100 and 200-yard freestyles, while Dave Sorensen has the 50 and 100 freestyles in the Boys 18 & Under division.
Tim Skog has a pair of races in the 50 and 100 freestyles for Boys 14 & Under, while Madison Neuberger (Girls 12U) and Sarah Janssen (Girls 14U) will each participate in the 50 freestyles.
“The kids themselves, they’re not thinking of any other stroke except that one,” Stingrays’ head coach Donna Damm said, referring to the freestyle. “We don’t have to work on back crawl, butterfly, nothing — we can just concentrate on that one stroke.”
Everyone except Oliver Wolyniec, that is.
Wolyniec will take up the 50 breaststroke in the Boys 12 & Under age group.
The Stingrays will have a distinct advantage over most of their competitors, since they already swam at the U of M’s facility last month for the state meet.
“For anybody from Minnesota, they’ve got that advantage,” Damm said. “These teams coming from Iowa or Ohio and all these other places, this year they haven’t been in that pool or that setting.
“Our kids don’t have (as many) jitters,” she added. “It’s just like another place to swim, because they’ve been there.”
It was more than one month ago when the Stingrays swam at the state competition, their most recent meet.
Damm isn’t too worried about the long layoff, though.
In fact, she doesn’t really consider it a layoff at all.
“I don’t worry about the ‘no competition,’” Damm said. “They compete against themselves here (at practice) anyway. They’re always pushing each other.”
The coach has also had “more quality time,” with her swimmers, since there are only six of them now — compared to more than 40 during the regular season.
“It’s more individual,” Damm said. “Even though they don’t have the competition, we can really do some fine-tuning on their skills.”
Years of developing those skills have benefitted two Stingrays, especially.
High school seniors Engelkes and Sorensen have been staples on the squad for several seasons, and this weekend will most likely offer them the final competition of their YMCA careers.
“You always need a leader that kids look up to that they aspire to be like, and both of them get that respect and attention from the younger kids on the team,” Damm said, adding, “They talk and horse around with the younger kids, too.”
The ages of the Stingrays range from six to 18 years. According to Damm, that’s one of the things that makes her swim team so special.
Many of her younger swimmers “know that Kari’s been on the team since she was like seven,” Damm said. “They’re going to some day grow up to be one of these really good swimmers too, hopefully, that’s our goal.”
At least, it’s one of their goals. But, not the top one.
Damm will remind her six swimmers of what that is before they take their final plunges this weekend.
“Number one, you’re out there to have fun and enjoy yourself,” she said.