Ready, set, swim: YMCA Stingrays set for new seasonWORTHINGTON — For musicians, the dream is to play at Carnegie Hall. Golfers dream of playing at Augusta National. For the Worthington YMCA Stingrays swim team, the dream is to swim at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.
WORTHINGTON — For musicians, the dream is to play at Carnegie Hall. Golfers dream of playing at Augusta National.
For the Worthington YMCA Stingrays swim team, the dream is to swim at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.
“The state meet and the regional meet are both held at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center,” Stingrays coach Donna Damm said. “The kids that have swam there or went and watched other kids swim there, to them it is the best thing they could ever do, just to be able to swim in that pool. I’d like to get as many kids chances to get up there as possible.”
The equation for getting there is simple: swim fast enough, and you’re in.
In each event for every age group there is a designated qualifying time, and all that a swimmer needs to do is beat that time in an individual event at any of the team’s meets this season.
On Saturday the Stingrays had their first meet, and already five swimmers have met the qualification criteria — Sarah Janssen, Cameron Jenson, Adrian Manzo, Madison Neuberger and Tim Skog.
Damm is hoping that during the season, other Stingrays will swim fast enough to join them.
“My goal this year is to get more kids to the regional swim meet,” Damm said. “It’s a seven state meet, and they only get in there by qualifying times. Right now we’ve got two girls and three boys. You only qualify in individual events, but if we get four people in their age groups then we can create relays. I’d like to get enough kids there to get in some relays.”
Usually the team will have one or two swimmers qualify after the first meet, so it has been a promising start to the season to already have five qualifiers.
“I’m excited,” Damm said. “To me, it tells me that their improvement has been pretty good. The kids were coming in with times that were at or better than what they finished with last year. If their times are already improving now, I’m guessing that, if all works well and they continue to work hard, they’ll cut even more time. It just shows that there was growth not just in their stature, but in their skills.”
Damm is hoping for at least 10 swimmers to qualify for the regional meet, which takes place in April, but knows that for the kids on the team, swimming isn’t all about qualifying for big races.
This year the Stingrays are comprised of 53 swimmers between the ages of six and 18, 19 of whom are brand new, including the team’s first two swimmers to come from Windom.
Especially for the new swimmers, Damm is hoping that being on the team has as much of an effect on improving their lifestyle as it does on turning them into competitive swimmers.
“As with most YMCA programs, the goals are pretty much self-improvement, making them feel successful and making it fun for them,” Damm said. “I initially want to make it fun for those swimmers to make it one of those life-long sports that they can do. With the feedback I got after the first meet, the kids were pretty excited.”
Damm has already been impressed by what she’s seen from her new group of swimmers.
“The new swimmers we’ve got this year are really good,” Damm said. “I see a lot of potential in the new group we have coming in, so it will be nice to see them develop and move on.”
The influx of new swimmers has helped the team recover from losing five members from last year’s squad, including team leaders Kari Engkles and Dave Sorensen, who both graduated. Damm is hoping to see some of the older swimmers fill into the leadership roles as the season progresses.
The Stingrays continue their season with a meet in Austin on Saturday, and follow that with a home meet at the Worthington YMCA on Nov. 20.
The Stingrays will then have a further four meets before the Jan. 30 sectional meet in Mankato, including their last home meet on Dec. 11.
In the sectional meet the Stingrays will compete against teams from Austin, Albert Lea, Mankato and Winona, with the top swimmers from the meet qualifying for the Feb. 13 state meet at the University of Minnesota.
Swimming in the state meet is a goal that even more Stingray swimmers are likely to achieve than make it to regionals, and Damm is hoping that as many team members as possible are able to accomplish it.
“I would like these kids to just feel the success at the end of our season,” Damm said. “I try to get as many kids as I can to make it to state.”
The University of Minnesota Aquatic Center beckons, and the question isn’t if the Stingrays will have a strong presence in both meets there, but how strong that presence will be.