The day of the county wide, Marin Swimming League Championships we had to wake up before 6am. You wouldn’t expect that to be an easy feat for any 6 and 8 year kids, but because of the coming days events my daughters didn’t have much trouble springing out of bed, getting in their bathing suits, eating breakfast and packing into the car. They were psyched up, and I was hoping not psyched out. It was a typically cool, overcast summer morning when we arrived at the pool and for the first time all year eight year old Skylee decided to swim ‘warm ups’ with the rest of the team.
It’s really a stretch to call those pre-race laps warm-ups when the kids get out of the pool and immediately start shivering. We’ve preferred Skylee to save everything she’s had for the races and held her out of the warm-ups upon her request, but in the two days prior to the Championships Skylee had been practicing a new dive and the coach wanted to see how she entered the water from this particular pool deck, which was higher than ours, before deciding on which dive Skylee should use. Basically she had been diving in from a standup position all season, and the coach thought she might benefit more from the more common sprinter stance start. Her entries had been late coming out of the standup position, and we found that the sprinter start put her in a better position entering the water. The issue with the sprinter start was that if she dove in too deep it could kill any advantage she gained by getting in the water quicker.
For an 8 year old girl the thought of changing her dive for the Championships could have been stressful. Skylee however has a very laid back attitude, she would go with whatever dive the coach wanted. Along with the coach I watched her practice, and with almost every dive she was able to keep close to the surface, so the coach decided she should try the sprinter start. I think I was more nervous than Skylee and silently wished the coach had made the change weeks ago, but the coach had taken Skylee this far and she had done well under his guidance so I wasn’t about to question him. It’s not like he wasn’t trying and succeeding in getting the best times out of her all year. Together they had done great.
The first scheduled race of the day was the mixed medley race. As one of the two fastest 8 and under girls on the team Skylee participated in this race all year. Skylee swam the second leg, debuting her new dive, and did well against the competition. Our Orcas took third place, which meant Skylee had earned a medal in her first race of the day! We were all very excited and proud.
After the medleys came the freestyle, arguably Skylee’s slowest stoke against the competition. Again with the new dive Skylee did great, crossing the pool in a personal best time of 18.27 which was good enough for second in her heat. That landed her in 18th place overall for her age group, just out of the points as only the top 16 received points for their team. It was still a great performance and we were all very happy for her. Six year old Sabrina also took part in a freestyle heat, however her lack of commitment to practicing showed as she clawed her way across the pool in 28.73, a full five seconds off her best time. We were still very proud of her participating and glad she put forth an effort in the pool. Her results this year will be a good lesson for when she returns to the pool next year. If she practices she’ll do great. If not, hopefully she’ll still have as much fun as she did this year.
Sabrina’s backstroke was up next for our family swimmers, and even though she had talked about wanting to do it she decided against participating at the last minute. It’s been her least favorite stroke and I hardly blamed her for it. You never really know where you’re going when you’re doing the backstroke, and more than once she had struck her head on the side of the pool at the end of her laps. So she bowed out.
Sabrina was up again next for the family in the breaststroke, which was by far her favorite and this time she chose to swim. Again she was a few seconds off her best time, but she had fun with it and the groundwork had been laid for 2011. If she practices like her sister Skylee, Sabrina will do well. Skylee had been working hard on her breaststroke and she was hopeful although unrealistic about her expectations of breaking the 27 year old team record of 21.05 seconds. Still Skylee gave it her best shot, and she came in a very respectable 7th place in her age group with another personal best time of 23.01, which was good enough to earn another medal (the top eight individual swimmers in the county got medals) and points for the team! Even though she had gotten faster, most of the girls she was competing against got faster as well, and ultimately she was literally only .22 out of being a top five swimmer in the county. We were basically overjoyed with her results and could not have asked for any better effort!
Skylee’s last individual race was the grueling IM. While she didn’t get a personal best in the race, she did come close at 1:42:90. This was good enough for 10th in the county and more points for the team! She ended up 2 places and 1.33 seconds out of the 8th and final medal spot. Skylee’s new dive had certainly paid off, and we were all delighted that she had done so well: 2 medals, 2 best times, & top 10 in the county in two events. Could she have done better? Sure, but she could have done a heck of a lot worse too and we were glad that all her hard work had paid off!
There was one more race for Skylee, the mixed freestyle relay. We really felt like it was an honor and a privilege that she got to do the relays, befitting of being one of the fastest girls on her team. She certainly had earned the honor with her hard work over the past four months that spanned the season. It was really amazing that she swam in five races, one of which was the IM, and did so well from the start of the season through to the end. My girl was in excellent shape and at the young age of 8 she had become one of the best swimmers in the county. The team finished in fifth place in the race, two spots and 1:39 seconds out of the third place medal spot. There was certainly nothing to hang heads about with that last race of the season. We were all very proud of our kids.
Skylee started the year swimming the freestyle in 20.43 seconds back on April 24th during the team time trials. She ended the year consistently swimming in the 18’s, and placing in the top three in most of her dual meet races. Her 26.25 start in the breaststroke seemed pedestrian at the time, yet she was able to hammer it down to 23.01, winning several of her dual meet races and finishing 7th overall. She didn’t set any team records but she certainly dazzled. Her perseverance was most evident in the IM, where she consistently came from behind in the dual meet races to place in the top three. Finishing 1oth overall in the Championships was icing on the cake, especially since she started the year swimming the four laps nearly 20 seconds slower! Skylee didn’t just earn my respect and admiration, but a lot of her teammates as well.
2011 will be an interesting swimming year in our house. Skylee will be 9 and competing against 9 and 10’s so 2012 will likely be a better year for her when she’s at the top of her age group again. Sabrina is another story however as she has been much further ahead as a six year old than Skylee was at seven. So next year even though Sabrina will still only be seven going against the 8 and unders she will certainly have opportunities to shine. Like Skylee in 2012 she will be at the top of her age group, so 2011 will be for building, but the way they’ve performed it promises to be a lot of fun to watch! It wouldn’t be surprising if both of them find themselves at the top of their age groups as soon as next year. If not, so what? As long as they are out there trying, getting exercise and having fun we’ll pretty much have the best of all worlds.
Andy Falk is a father of two incredible daughters ages born in 2001 & 2003, Skylee
and Sabrina. Andy is very active in the lives of his daughters, from coaching soccer to supporting them during swimming season to just plain doing homework or hanging out. Andy also surfs regularly, bicycle commutes and is a successful Realtor in Marin County, CA. Andy earned his MBA from San Francisco State University with an Internet Marketing concentration, and holds a BA from the University of California at San Diego where he studied and surfed in the 80’s.