Going long

Long-course meet provides challenge, fun for swimmers of all ages

Taylor Kidd takes a breath Saturday during the 100-meter freestyle at the Western Slope League Championships at El Pomar Natatorium. The long-course swim meet gives college swimmers like Kidd a chance to swim without the pressure they face during the college season.

Staring at 50 uninterrupted meters of water in front of the starting blocks can be daunting for those unfamiliar with long-course swimming.

But in truth, the challenges don’t come all at once. They add up over the course of a race. Namely, fewer flip turns.

Maverick Aquatics is hosting the three-day Western Slope League Championships at El Pomar Natatorium, a meet with 17 teams and roughly 300 swimmers from a wide range of age groups. The final day of competition starts at 9:30 a.m. today and is scheduled to run until almost 4 p.m.

The meet brings in many smaller clubs from outlying towns, many that don’t have high school teams or Olympic-length pools. Swimmers from Delta, Rangely, Rifle, Cortez, Meeker, Avon, Pagosa Springs and Telluride joined those from bigger clubs — like Grand Junction, Montrose and Aspen — in the final tune-up for the Colorado State Long Course Swim Meet next weekend in Fort Collins.

For Delta swimmer Isaac Gibson, 16, the long-course format is better for distance races, but the boost after a flip-turn is missed during sprints.

“Longer races like the mile, 500 (freestyle), 400 IM, it’s a lot easier to not have to deal with as many flip-turns,” he said. “But I definitely miss the flip-turns in the sprint events like the 50, 100, 200. Just being able to push and get that little bit of rest on the wall.”

Gibson, who’s going into his junior year at Delta High School, travels to Montrose to swim during the high school season. But during the summer, Gibson gets to swim for his hometown, something he said makes the meets a lot more fun.

“Coming from Delta, it’s not something that everybody gets to do,” Gibson said. “You have to qualify for this meet, to compete against all the really great athletes here. It’s a pretty big honor.”

There’s the added bonus of making friends, too. Gibson said the summer season is more laid-back. Swimmers are still very competitive, he said, but many are just trying to stay in shape. The practice schedule is lighter, lacking the day-to-day grind of the high school season.

“During the high school season, it’s a lot of practice and a lot of hard work and a lot of things that are good for you,” Gibson said. “It’s a grind for the season, then you have your two big meets at the end of it. This, you can kinda treat every meet like it’s a championship meet. When you get to these bigger summer meets, like West Slopes and state, it’s an all-out effort. You’re giving everything you can and you don’t really have to worry about a long season.”

The meet features very young swimmers in its 8-and-under division and has a handful of swimmers in their 20s competing. Summer long-course meets are an opportunity for college swimmers to stay in shape with no competitive pressure. It’s a chance to work on the more technical aspects of specific strokes or very specific mechanics.

Taylor Kidd, a former Grand Junction High School swimmer who now swims for the University of South Dakota, said she enjoys the more relaxed atmosphere of the summer meets. After earning All-Summit League honors for the Coyotes and setting relay records during her sophomore season, the summer meets allow her to maintain her skills while she’s back home.

“I’m just kinda taking it easy before I go back to college,” Kidd said. “Because when I go back, it’s like eight months of really intense training, just school and extracurriculars and those things. It takes a lot out of you, so I just wanted to stay in shape. I love swimming still and obviously it’s fun for me to get to swim in meets with my sister (Delaney) and stuff like that. It’s laid-back and I’m not doing anything too crazy or too fast now.”


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