March came in like a lion, but Mother Nature cleared a window of great weather in Folsom from March 2-4 for 14 Truckee Tahoe Swim Team members to compete in the Sierra Nevada Swimming Short Course (25-yard) 14 andamp; Under Junior Olympics. The Junior Olympics (JOs) are the first step into elite swimming, and qualifying is a great feat in its own. Preliminary swims happened during the day and the top 10 finishers returned after a 90-minute break each evening for the finals, making for 12-hour days.Aside from a few cases of sunburn, the Truckee Tahoe Swim Team (TTST) athletes had a great time and handled the competition with great results.“TTST kids were awesome,” said Olympic Hall of Fame swimmer and TTST head coach Debbie Meyer. “Personal-best times, which are always a goal in swimming, were had from all swimmers. We have a new crop of swimmers that made the Junior Olympics for the first time. Our younger swimmers are filling the shoes of the swimmers that aged out of the short course JOs.”Annika Thayer, 8, is one such bright star. Already a veteran JO swimmer during her three years with team, Thayer brought home not only medals in all seven of the events she swam, but also brought home the High Point runner-up trophy in the 8 andamp; Under girls' category. Hot on her heels is Emma Purdy, also 8. Purdy has been training with TTST for almost a year and competed in the JOs for the first time. Purdy also came home with war chest full of medals — five second places in the six events she swam. The youngest 8-year-old swimmer TTST had qualify for the meet is Caitlin Smith, who qualified in three events for her first JO appearance and brought home a fifth-place medal for her efforts.Moving up an age bracket, TTST sent four 9- and 10-year-olds. Showing the draw to the team, all four are from either Incline Village or Tahoe City. Allison Lockard, 10, who has been with the team for a year and a half and has consistently swam in JOs, qualified in 12 events, competed in six and brought home medals in four events. Newcomer this past fall Taylor Chaney, 10, qualified in seven individual events and swam in her first JOs with many best times. Rebecca Waterson, 9, who has been swimming for TTST for about a year and competed in her second JO meet, earned three “A”-level times in her five events and brought home an eighth-place medal. Also new to the team is Hunter Hoffman, 10, who qualified for three events in his first JO meet.The 11-12 age bracket was represented by JO veterans and a first-timer.Kate Rye, 11, qualified in six events and swam personal bests in most. She has been swimming for TTST since she was 7 and has consistently qualified for the JOs since she was 9. Gavin Olsen, 12, who has been training with TTST for four years, has worked extremely hard during the last year to qualify for his first JOs. Olsen swam best times in both events in which he competed. Another TTST and JO veteran, 12-year-old Cooper DeRyk, qualified in six events and earned best times in most.Niki Kates was one of four TTST athletes who competed in the 13-14 age group. Kates, 13, qualified in eight events and competed in five. A seven-year veteran of the team, and to many JO meets, Kates dropped 8 seconds off of her 500 free while finishing in less than 6:00 for the first time. Ingrid Suter, 13, also qualified in eight events. Another TTST and JO veteran, Suter swam best times in all four events she entered. Jake Hamilton, 14, who has been training with TTST for eight years, swam six events and earned all personal-best times. He dropped 11 seconds off his 500 free. Brittney Straw, 14, had her pick of 12 qualifying events to swim. Straw, who has been training with the team since she was 5, competed in seven events and brought home five medals, including a third place in the 100 breaststroke. Additionally, Straw has been selected to train at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., during spring break along with her older brother, Alex. This is a first for TTST.A special recognition also goes to Alex Straw, a 16-year-old longtime member of TTST. While Straw is too old to compete in these Junior Olympics, he is moving to the top of the ladder of competitive swimming by qualifying for the club Junior Nationals in Orlando, Fla., from March 20-24. He'll compete in the 100 and 200 breast, the 100 and 200 backstroke, and the 200 individual medley. Adding icing to the cake, Straw was also recently named a Sierra Nevada Swimming Scholar for his athletic and academic achievements.“Our TTST swimmers did a fantastic job,” Meyer said. “The team had first-time qualifiers and veterans, and their hard work over the last seven months paid off in personal-bests, finalists and high-point successes. I am so proud of all of them.”The Truckee Tahoe Swim Team offers training and practice groups for swimmers of all ages and ability levels. Find out more about the team at www.truckeeswim.com.
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