Zone swimmers inspired by watching Olympics

Ethan Dang was perhaps one of the shorter competitors at the Western Zone Age Group Championships on Wednesday, but when he said the ‘O’ word, the 10-year-old seemed to stand taller.

The kid from Kent, Wash., spoke of the Olympics.

And after setting a zone meet record with a 1-minute, 19.08-second time in the 100-meter breaststroke at El Pomar Natatorium, he’s taken a step expected of future Olympians.

Like Missy Franklin competing at the zone meet years ago, there could be future Olympians — even gold medalists — at the zone meet held at El Pomar Natatorium, which attracted teams from 16 western states.

“This means a lot,” Dang said. “It’s another step toward the Olympics.”

It’s a step toward sectionals.

But, of course, Dang has been watching the Olympics.

“The Olympics inspire me,” Dang said, “because you see that every time you want to slow down, you keep going fast, because in the end it’s worth it.”

Some coaches at the meet said Olympic dreams by zone meet competitors are not too far-fetched.

“Some of the swimming records from this meet have been set by Olympians in a number of cases,” said Sean Redmond, the head coach of the San Diego Imperial All-Star Team who has been coming to the zone meet since 1986. “What’s so neat about this meet is you’re probably watching the next Olympian and the next gold medalist in four to 12 years.”

Colorado Swimming leads after the second day of the meet with 613 points. Pacific Swimming is in second with 547.5, and Utah is third with 243.

Abby Kochevar of Aurora, who swam for Colorado Swimming, also set a zone meet record of 26.88 seconds in the 50 freestyle.

Later in the 400 medley relay (age 13-14), Kochevar anchored Colorado’s winning team that also consisted of Eleanor Matheson, Lindsay Painton and Katherine Harston. Colorado’s time was 4:31.88.

Colorado defeated second-place Pacific (4:32.9) and third-place Sierra Nevada (4:33.03).

Kochevar swam the freestyle leg of the medley relay. The leaders were even when she dove into the pool. The race ended with Kochevar ahead by a body length.

In March, Matheson, who swam the second leg, competed in the American Bouldering Series Youth Nationals in Colorado Springs. In other words, she’s an exceptional rock climber.

“I did OK,” she said of her national meet performance.

She only sees a couple similarities between rock climbing and swimming.

“You’re still pushing and pulling,” she said. “But it’s a different mindset. When climbing, there’s more thinking on your feet, and every time you go climbing it’s probably different than it was the last time. In swimming, it’s the same.”


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