A medley of determination: 400 IM the proving ground for swimmers
The way to earn respect in any sport is to do something challenging.
That challenge in the pool is the 400-meter individual medley.
“If you are a 400 IM’er, you are a stud,” Grand Junction Dolphins coach Dale Leonhart said. “You have to be good at all four strokes and be tough as nails.”
The 400 IM consists of a 100-meter swim in the freestyle, breaststroke, butterfly and backstroke, and Friday at the first day of the Western Slope Long Course Championships at the El Pomar Natatorium, there were four different groups competing in the 400 IM.
“You have always be working on all four swims,” Dolphins’ swimmer Carlos Matthews said. “It’s a good event for people who want to challenge themselves.”
Matthews, 14, finished second in the boys 13/14-year-old heat in 5:29.80.
On the girls side, the Dolphins’ Jessica Deters finished the IM in 6:16.77. Both swimmers specialize in one specific swim, but compete in the IM to help them be well-rounded in the pool.
“To be a 400 IM swimmer, you have to have four good kicks,” Leonhart said. “If you are in my boat as a grass roots coach, you want to build kids into good 400 IM’ers because when they get done (in high school), they’ll have all the tools necessary to be pretty exceptional.”
Although the 400 IM is never easy, the swim is especially difficult in the long course. A long course tests swimmers’ stroke ability in all events, but nowhere does it show more than in the 400 IM.
“If you are a swimmer, you love long course. If you have good turns and fast transitions out of turns, you love short course,” Leonhart said. “You can have stroke liabilities and get away with them in short course, but you can’t hide in long course.”
Deters finished first in her heat, but eighth overall in the open girls 400 IM. Deters said the event pushes a swimmers’ limits.
“It’s mentally and physically tough,” Deters said. “It’s one of those races that forces swimmers to step up their effort.”
Matt Hulstine of Craig won the boys 400 IM in 5:23.73, and Ashley Roper of Sopris Swim Club of Glenwood Springs won the girls 400 IM in 5:56.89.
The Western Slope Championships began Friday morning with the younger swimmers.
Maddie Mechling of Sopris won the girls 8-and-under 100-yard freestyle in 1:15.11. Mechling also won the 25 backstroke in 19.72. Mechling rounded out her morning with wins in the 50 freestyle, 34.52, and the 100 IM, 1:33.36.
The Dolphins’ Aidan Padyk finished second in the boys 8-and-under 100 free in 1:24.69. Padyk also finished second in the 25-yard breaststroke in 24.91.
The afternoon events featured swimmers ages nine and up.
Teale Kitson of Durango edged out Montrose’s Derek Sloan in the boys 50 freestyle. Kitson finished in 26.93 to Sloan’s 26.97.
Daniel Hurford of Montrose won the boys 12-and-under 400 freestyle in 5:32.17.
Tyler Fair finished out the day strong for the Dolphins by winning the boys 200 backstroke in 2:30.49.
On the girls side, Tesse Maciejko of Gunnison won the girls 50 freestyle in 28.84, and Kelcie Gerson of Aspen won the girls 13-14 200 backstroke in 2:36.82.
The Dolphins’ Taylor Kidd finished second in the 200 backstroke in 2:48.15.