Splash of talent: Youth uprising key in Griffins’ win at El Pomar Natatorium
It’s not that the District 51 swim team needed anyone to swim better.
With experienced swimmers like Cy Pearo, Nick Neste and Ty Walton, the team already has plenty of talent.
But late in the season, the team is seeing a youth uprising of sorts, with four freshman swimmers cutting times to help the Griffins win all three of their duals Saturday to beat Gunnison, Moffat County and Montrose at El Pomar Natatorium.
In fact, one of the freshmen, Tyler Fair, has already qualified for the state championship meet May 21-22 in Fort Collins in two races, the 100-yard backstroke and the 200 medley relay.
“He trains with purpose,” District 51 coach Dale Leonhart said. “He knows what he wants to do. He wants to go to the state meet and score. He doesn’t want to just go participate, he wants to go, get in there and place.”
Fair, the son of a swim coach, hit the water for the first time when he was only a few months old. Early on, he spent time on the Grand Valley Wave team and went on to the Junior Olympics when he was in sixth grade.
“That summer, I went to the Junior Olympics and it really sparked something,” Fair said. “That was sort of cool and I liked it, so I started swimming competitvely.”
From there, he joined the Grand Junction Dolphins and started work with Leonhart.
Leonhart feels like much of Fair’s early success in high school comes from his dedication to the sport.
In addition, Fair knows his body well enough that he is able to adjust even the smallest details of his stroke.
“He has a good sense of kinesthetic proprioception,” Leonhart said. “It means he knows where his body is and he has good body control in space. He feels things and he’s able to assimilate to things quickly and apply in them. ... Not everyone has that level of bodily awareness.”
In Saturday’s races, Fair took second place in the 200 individual medley, finishing only four seconds behind Walton. Fair also was in the wining teams on the 200 freestyle and medley relay teams.
In addition to Fair, the team has also had success from Logan Young, who took second place in Saturday’s 500 freestyle race behind Pearo, who qualified for state in the race.
“He swims some of the more rigorous races in the high school format,” Leonhart said of Young, who also swims the butterfly and the individual medley.
“(Those are) the ones that pay a high dividend for a strong work ethic, so he’s thriving in those races. He’s improved steadily throughout the course of the season.”
The team has also seen improvements from Nate Garcia and Ben Skinner, who have been been cutting times all season. Saturday, Garcia finished fifth in the 200 freestyle and Skinner took fifth in the 500 freestyle. Skinner, Young and Garcia also took place in several relays throughout the day.
Leonhart feels like part of the reason the young swimmers are able to find their way in the program is because of a good overall chemistry within the team.
“We’ve got our two designated co-captains (Ian Smith and Brett Scott), but we also have a pretty substantial base of informal leadership on the team,” Leonhart said.
“The more experienced guys help the younger guys who aren’t as experienced. That’s one of the reasons we’re starting to really see this success level rising from our underclass guys.”
The Griffins finish the regular season May 14-15 with the Southwestern League Championships at El Pomar Natatorium.