Snowflake Open draws big crowds in the pool

Claire Walton of the Grand Junction dolphins shows off her form in the 100-yard backstroke Saturday at the Snowflake Open at Orchard Mesa Community Pool. Walton was one of the more than 200 swimmers participating in the meet. Inset, Brendon Venegas takes a breath during the 50-yard breaststroke.

The Snowflake Open is a perfect example of the next generation of swimmers meshing with current pool junkies.

The club swim meet hosted more than 200 swimmers, ranging in age from five to 18, Saturday at Orchard Mesa Community Pool.

“We have more kids than what we usually have,” meet director Michelle Bridwell said. “We are bursting at the seams in here. It is great.”

The 76-event meet is split into two days of swimming, with 38 events Saturday ranging from the 100-yard freestyle to relays for all ages. Day two is also 38 events with the meet finishing up with a open division 500 freestyle.

“The best part is seeing kids trying very hard and doing their best,” Bridwell said. “On the Western Slope, we cheer for everyone and you like to see everyone get better.”

The meet is comprised of seven teams: two local teams, the Grand Valley Wave and Grand Junction Dolphins, and teams from Aspen, Summit County, Montrose, Glenwood Springs and the Front Range.

Dolphins coach Dale Leonhart has seen plenty of Snowflake meets and said this weekend’s is one of the largest in six or seven years.

“This is the biggest we have had for a while,” Leonhart said. “For instance, we have 29 relays. We have got every able-bodied kid we can find in the meet.”

Leonhart said the Dolphins were missing some of the older swimmers, but had most of the younger swimmers competing as an opportunity to qualify for the winter championships.

“One of the criteria to compete in our winter championships is that you have competed in at least a couple of meets,” Leonhart said. “So we try and take advantage of this meet, which is our home meet, and get everyone into the water at least once. That way they are eligible.”

Leonhart also said the meet is a good time for the swimmers to progress and try for best times. Daron Garrison is the head coach of Team Sopris out of Glenwood Springs and said the team tries to use every meet as a chance to get better.

“We are working this meet as a developmental opportunity,” Garrison said. “We are not worried about how fast but more about what they are doing right.”

Raphael Joly is one of Team Sopris’ older swimmers in the meet — a senior at Summit High School. Saturday, he was competing in four events and attempting to get a gauge on how he
was swimming.

“It is a good learning experience because this meet is right before the big championship meets,” Joly said. “You get to see where you are and it gives you a good foreshadow for the
rest of the season.”

Joly’s goal is to swim in college but with young swimmers alongside him, he said he can still remember the motivation for the young group.

“This meet for them is just having fun,” Joly said. “It is hopping into the pool with a bunch of friends and seeing what happens.”

The meet continues today at 10:15 a.m. at Orchard Mesa Community Pool.


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