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Annual Winter High Point Swim Meet this weekend

Joseph Grebner, of the Aberdeen Swim Club, right, stretches out off the starting block at the begining of his heat in the boys 13 and over 100 yard breaststroke last year at the Winter High Point Meet at the Aberdeen Family YMCA. The annual event takes place this weekend. Photo by John Davis taken 1/8/2022

The last time the Aberdeen Swim Club hosted a meet, temperatures were hovering around 100 degrees. Fast foward about six months and conditions have drastically changed outdoors, but action will still be heating up indoors as the team hosts its annual Winter High Point Swim Meet Saturday and Sunday at the Aberdeen Family Y.

Action starts at 9 a.m. daily with swimmers 13 and Over, plus 11-12 girls competing in the morning. Afternoon sessions start at 1:10 p.m. on Saturday and 2:20 p.m. on Sunday for 10 and Under girls and 12 and Under boys.

There will be about 215 competitors from eight different teams, with nearly half the total comprised of Aberdeen swimmers.

Because most of the teams will not feature large amounts of swimmers, Sting Rays coach Neil Romney said the focus will be more on individual battles.

“We certainly encourage the kids to develop friendly rivalries with their competitors, kids who are about their levels from other teams, and they do,” Romney said. “That’s one of the things I like about South Dakota. It’s kind of like one big, small town in terms of swimming, because they know all their primary competitors from all the other teams around. And they’re friendly with them, but they compete hard, so that’s a good situation.”

Romney said because there are so few meets during the winter months, a big key is just getting the chance to compete.

“The biggest thing at this point in the season is just getting those competitive opportunities in and making sure you’re racing at 100 percent,” he said, “because we just don’t get that many opportunities.”

The state indoor meets are the last weekend in February for swimmers 12 and Under in Watertown, and the first weekend in March for those 13 and Over in Pierre.

While Romney doesn’t expect peak times this weekend, he will be looking for improvement out of his swimmers.

“Some of the older kids, especially the most seasoned ones, we’re not expecting them to swim best times at this point in the season,” Romney said. “If they do, that’s all the better, but we do want to see an improvement over a month or two ago, or another way to look at it is over this time last season.”

The pool at the Y is 10 percent shorter than the pool at Northern State where the Sting Rays practice. Romney said while that does have an impact, it is not significant.

“It’s probably not nearly as dramatic and different as going from a grass court to a clay court if you’re a tennis player,” he said.

If anything, it may be provide more of a psychological advantage for the competitors.

“They get to the wall about a stroke or two sooner than they would in our training pool,” Romney said, “so they’re less fatigued, they don’t have to hold their stroke together as long.”

A bigger factor of being indoors is that those who are competing in the backstroke will have something to focus on while they are swimming.

Makayla Torbert, of the Aberdeen Swim Club, swims the backstroke leg of the girls 11-12 200 yard medley relay last year at the Winter High Point Meet at the Aberdeen Family YMCA. Photo by John Davis taken 1/8/2022

“The backstrokers should have the biggest advantage, because if the sun’s not in their eyes, they can see the ceiling and it makes it much easier to swim in a straight line,” Romney said. “Outdoors, you don’t have any reference points. Kids often don’t swim straight and they end up swimming farther, and if they veer into the lane line they can become distracted. They should be faster here.”

Of course, being indoors can be much noisier as well with no place for the sound to escape. Romney said that shouldn’t be too big of a factor, though.

“It’s not like basketball where we’re calling out plays,” he said. “Whatever they’ve practiced to do they’re going to do that at probably 80 percent, at best, level of effectiveness, just because we don’t perform with great precision when we’re in a race situation. We’re not asking them to. We want them to be racing then.”

The first year coach is looking forward to his initial indoor home meet with the squad.

He said the swimmers are also excited about getting to perform in front of their family and friends.

“I sense that in practice. We’ve had better practice attendance this week and more energy than usual,” Romney said. “I hope that carries through the weekend. I believe it will, just from what I’ve seen so far this week.”

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