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PREP SWIMMING: Swimming the elite meet

Daniel Kerwin/Daily Globe The Worthington YMCA Stingrays swim team members that have qualified for this weekend's Midwest Regional Swim Meet pose during practice on Tuesday. Pictured are (left to right): Tim Skog, Matt Sorensen, Cameron Jenson, Oliver Wolyniec, Madison Neuberger and Sarah Janssen (not pictured is Adrian Manzo).

WORTHINGTON -- After a full six months of practice, the weekend of the Midwest Regional Swim Meet has arrived for the Worthington YMCA Stingrays swim team.

For the seven members of the team that qualified for it, the event offers the toughest test of the season, with over 1,200 participants competing from eight different states -- all of them elite swimmers.

"It's an elite meet, so everyone there is very good," Stingrays head coach Donna Damm said.

The competition will take place at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center in Minneapolis on both Saturday and Sunday, with as many as 150 swimmers competing in a single event.

To qualify for the event, the participants had to swim a qualification time in any of their official meets during the course of season.

The seven Stingrays to qualify for this weekend's event were Sarah Janssen, Cameron Jenson, Adrian Manzo, Madison Neuberger, Tim Skog, Matt Sorensen and Oliver Wolyniec.

All seven have been training exclusively for their Midwest regional events since the state meet, which was Feb. 12-13.

For some this has meant that they have had to concentrate on only one particular stroke. Jenson was the only team member that had to practice all four strokes in preparation for the six individual events he will be participating in this weekend.

"Some of them are only swimming one (stroke), so they really put all their time in just trying to improve that one stroke," Damm said. "Cameron Jenson is the exception -- he's had to work on all of them."

Although reaching this weekend's event is something the team has been anticipating for many months, there will be a bittersweet feeling after a chaotic couple of weeks leading up to the event.

Wolyniec's goal of participating this weekend was crushed when he suffered a freak injury on the basketball court last weekend.

A talented all-around athlete, Wolyniec was competing in a game with his travelling basketball team when his left arm was broken when it became trapped between a pair of players during a moment of unusually hard contact.

Wolyniec's untimely injury was a rough blow for the whole team.

"They're feeling really bad for Oliver," Damm said. "They're all competitive -- you know how it would make you feel. Madison said, 'I don't know what I would do if that would have been me' -- she knows how bad he's feeling, because it is hard. You have that goal and you achieve that goal, and now because of something like that you can't participate."

The team also will potentially be without Manzo due to a scheduling conflict, leaving the team with the sudden prospect of only having five swimmers actively participate in the meet.

The main problem is that the Stingrays' two relay events --the boys' 18 & under 200-yard medley relay and the boys' 18 & under 200-yard freestyle relay -- have been put in jeopardy.

"The relays are really awesome to get into because it's rare we get enough swimmers to do that," Damm said. "Now that one's up in the air... we'll see."

Luckily Jenson has stepped up as being willing to fill in a spot, adding two more events to his impressive tally, but the fate of the two relays remains in question.

Manzo, Wolyniec, Sorensen and Skog were the original members of the two relay teams.

In terms of individual events, the Stingrays swimmers qualified for a total of 14 individual races.

The two girls on the team will swim a combined total of three events. Janssen will be competing in the girls' 13-14 50-yard freestyle and Neuberger will compete in the girls' 11-12 50-yard freestyle and the girls' 11-12 50-yard breaststroke.

Skog will swim in the boys' 15-18 50-yard freestyle and the boys' 15-18 100-yard freestyle. Sorensen will also swim in the boys' 15-18 50-yard freestyle.

Manzo qualified for the boys' 13-14 50-yard freestyle and Wolyniec also qualified for the same race.

Jenson's events are all in the boys' 11-12 age division. He will compete in the 50-yard, 100-yard and 200-yard freestyle events, the 50-yard butterfly, the 50-yard breaststroke and the 100-yard individual medley.

The events are scheduled to have the younger age groups swimming earlier in the day and the older age groups in the afternoon.

Although there will be representatives from all but one of the YMCA teams in Worthington's section competing on the weekend, Damm estimates that 90 percent of the competition will be unfamiliar opponents for her swimmers.

There were a number of swimmers from Minnesota that swam qualifying times for the event but won't be swimming since their teams didn't get their entries in on time -- a problem that Damm was very conscious to avoid.

"Seven YMCA teams from Minnesota didn't make it in, so that was pretty sad for them," Damm said. "There are disappointed kids. I bet you there are probably 150 to 200 more kids that probably could have been there just from the state on Minnesota that didn't make it in."

Despite the obvious frustration of Wolyniec's injury, Damm said that all five of the boys that qualified this year will be very good candidates to qualify again next year. Wolyniec would be competing in the same age division since this year he is at the lower end of the age group.

Every swimmer competing for the Stingrays this weekend besides Sorenson has competed in at least one Midwest Regional event before, so being familiar with the event won't be much of an issue for the team.

Although one of the major goals for members of the Stingrays during the season is simply to qualify for the Midwest regional meet, over the weekend the swimmers will be looking to end the season with their best performances yet to cap off a long season.

"What I want their goal to be, I want them to get a better time," Damm said. "We look at their seed time when I get the program. Say there's 100 swimmers, if they're seeded 30th, I would like them to beat that seed place -- try to be 29, or 20 or whatever. Try to beat more people than you're supposed to. Some people have good days and some people have bad days, but have your best day, and get your best time."