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Stingrays shine during High Point swim meet

Alexia Hoven, of the Aberdeen Swim Club, competes in the girls 13 and over 100 LC Meter Butterfly Saturday at the Summer High Point meet at the Aberdeen Aquatic Center. Photo by John Davis taken 6/19/2021

It may not be the biggest meet of the season, but the High Point Swim Meet is the only home event for members of the Aberdeen Swim Club.

The Stingrays are doing their best to take advantage of their home pool, despite being involved in difficult in-season training.

“This meet is tough, because we’ve been training so hard,” said 14-year-old Joseph Grebner who still managed to win multiple events at the Aquatic Center on Saturday. “We don’t taper until the end of the year. Tapering means we shorten the distance of our training, but we keep the fast swimming. So you have to fight through that.”

Grebner said he tries to block out all distractions once he hits the water.

“I try to swim against myself. I try not to think about anybody beside me,” he said, “just me and the pool.”

Grebner’s older brothers, Dan and Matt were both swimmers, and his sister Lilly is currently an accomplished member of the Stingrays. If there’s any pressure to perform, Joseph has the perfect mindset for it.

“Here’s how I take it. Pressure is privilege,” he said. “If you feel the pressure it means you’ve done well in the past so you can do well at this meet, you can do well at this moment.”

PUTTING ON THE MEET

This year’s High Point Swim Meet features 403 swimmers from three different states. It takes a couple of months to prepare for it, according to Meet Director James Haugen.

“We start planning for our summer meet just after our winter season gets over in April,” Haugen said. “So we have about eight weeks to get ready for it.”

Haugen said every team that has ever competed in a meet gets an invitation each year.

“We send out our invite to every team who’s ever been here,” he said. “So we get a good cross section of North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota kids that can come over.”

Haugen said there are about 200 volunteer positions that are available for the meet, everything from timers to concession workers. The positions are divided by sessions.

“It does take a lot of time,” Haugen said, “but that’s the great thing about swimming, it’s a family. We currently have 59 Aberdeen Swim Club families that are participating today, but we have 67 Aberdeen swimmers. You have a lot of families that have multiple kids. When the families get lower filling positions get a little tight.”

POOL ART

Many of the participants at a swim meet have their races marked on their arms so they can remember their schedules.

Nora Olson of the Hurricanes Swim Team took that idea to a whole different level. The 15-year-old from St. Louis Park, Minn., had close to 50 designs and quotations up and down her legs.

“Me and my friends just kind of get bored during swim meets, so I let them draw on me,” Olson said.

When asked what her favorite design was, Olson pointed to a specific picture.

“I like this one,” she said. “It’s of my coach’s cat.”

Olson likes to think the pool art helps her to lower her times.

“I hope it kind of psyches out my competitors so I go faster” she said.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Of the 20 teams competing in the High Point Swim Meet, one is here for the first time.

The St. Cloud YMCA Swim Team is making its first appearance in the Hub City.

“With all the COVID and everything happening, Minnesota for the longest time wasn’t doing specators at meets,” said St. Cloud coach Cody Bateman. One of the swim families knew about the meet in Aberdeen that allowed spectators to watch. “I had a whole group of kids that wanted to come.”

Bateman is not one bit sorry he brought his swimmers.

“It’s amazing. I love swimming outdoors and long course. The fact that there’s a whole water park over there is kind of just adding to the neatness of the whole experience,” Bateman said of the Aquatic Center. That is not the norm in Minnesota. “Not every place is a water park. There’s a couple of pools that we can swim at in Minnesota that has a long course pool, but the water park is built into the long course pool. This being a long course pool with having everything else outside of the pool is phenomenal.”

So does that mean there’s a chance Bateman and his swimmers will come back in the future?

“Oh yeah,” Bateman said. “I definitely think we’ll come back.”

SWIMMING WITH THE BIG DOGS

Of the teams competing in the meet, the Miller Swim Club, is the smallest when it comes to town size.

“We’re also just a summer program, too, so it’s a really good experience for all our swimmers. It’s definitely intimidating as well, but we’re doing good,” said Miller coach Abigail Breitling. “We had some of our swimmers already cut time. This is a new thing. We didn’t have a program last year because of COVID, so they haven’t swam for a few years, so it’s really good just getting in the water.”

Competing against swimmers from much bigger programs is a challenge, but Breitling tries to keep things in perspective.

“I tell them what I want them to do is do their absolute best,” she said, “and if they get out of the water and they feel good about themselves then they did good.”

Breitling, a first-year coach who is only 20, is not much older than some of her swimmers.

“I was their teammate like three years ago” she said. Still, Breitling said the coach-swimmer relationship is working well. “They listen. They respect me. I respect them as swimmers.”

Despite being the underdog, Breitling has goals for her swimmers as they toughen up against solid competition.

“I hope that some of them can PR, some can lower their times, just getting them used to swim meets again and then getting them prepared for next week” Breitling said. “We’re going to Mitchell.”

FINDING THE RIGHT MEDIUM

It might be difficult to tell exactly where swimmers are at during a mid-summer meet. A lot depends on training models, according to Aberdeen Swim Club coach Sam Gaddie.

“There are so many different schools of training, so many different ways that teams kind of design their seasons,” Gaddie said. “For a home meet you want to put your best foot forward, but at the same time we’re in a point in the season where we want to be in the middle of our training as well and not really have a reason to recover and bounce back.”

This weekend’s High Point meet gives the Stingrays a chance to see a variety of competition in various stages of training.

“We have some people that come in from out of state here and they really like this meet and they want to showcase what they have,” Gaddie said. “I like seeing our swimmers go up against swimmers of all different training concepts and mentalities. It pushes them all.”

The Stingrays will use the meet as a good measuring stick to see where they’re at and what they will need to work on.

“We’re basically always looking to see what it is we are able to produce based on the practices that precede it. We’re going to try to correlate some of the speeds that we’ve been able to produce in the past few weeks to races that we’re having,” Gaddie said. “We’re trying to get a good feel for racing structure, good technique. We want to make sure we’re swimming the races well, seeing what it is we’re producing in time and then taking notes away on how it is we improve on that.”

FROM WEBSTER TO WATERTOWN

Swimmers spend a lot of time in the water honing their skills. Max Kuecker spends a lot of time on the road in addition to the water.

The 18-year-old from Webster has been driving back and forth to Watertown for the past four years to compete for the Watertown Area Swim Club.

“Better competition is the main reason I went from seasonal to year round,” Kuecker said.

Kuecker, who will be swimming at Iowa Central Community College next season, said there is a difference between competing on a seasonal team to a year round squad.

“It’s a lot more intensity,” Kuecker said. “One of the things that we all hate the most is losing to each other. So if we want to beat anyone it’s each other.”

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Members of the Aberdeen Swim Club are trying to take advantage of their home-town crowd. Many relatives were poolside cheering on the Stingrays on Saturday.

“It’s nice to see them all. They can cheer for you,” said Aberdeen’s Addyson Edwards. “When you’re turning to breathe, that will kind of motivate you, I guess.”

The 13-year-old said her favorite events are the 400 and 500-meter freestyle.

“I’m better at long distance,” she said. “I just like those.”

Longer races give swimmers more time to think during a race. Edwards said she has a variety of thoughts going through her mind while competing.

“Honestly, I just think about anything,” she said. “Like I’ve thought about what I was going to eat after that. It’s just anything, really.”

Edwards said thoughts of food whet her appetite for wanting to swim faster.

“Yeah, because then I’m like, ‘Oh, I get food after this. Let’s go!’ “

To view meet results from Friday, click on the following link:

https://www.teamunify.com/sdasc/UserFiles/Image/QuickUpload/2021-asc-summer-meet-results-friday_080565.pdf

To view meet results from Saturday, click on the following link:

https://www.teamunify.com/sdasc/UserFiles/Image/QuickUpload/2021-asc-summer-meet-results-saturday_042068.pdf

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