Huntsville, Ala. – The Huntsville Swim Association (HSA) hosts the long course TYR IMX/IMReady Invitational May 4-5 at the Brahan Spring Park Natatorium in the wake of a record-setting short course season.
According to Head Coach Matt Webber, HSA set 44 new team records in the past year alone. Sixty swimmers qualified for the short course Southeastern Championships, 16 qualified for senior sectionals and 24 for age group sectionals. The team also sent a record number of younger swimmers to the District Championships in Tuscaloosa.
At the age group sectionals, HSA’s Marybeth Monk won the overall 10-and-under girls high point award. She set eight new team records in the process. Teammate Regan Weakley notched two new HSA records in the 11-12 age group at sectionals.
HSA started the short course season with more than 300 swimmers. Seven qualified for the prestigious NCSA Junior National Meet held in Orlando recently: Sarah Margaret Cimino, Elise Maurel, Mallory Underwood, Jack Calatrello, Chandler Espy, Zach Harting and John Smith. The 18-and-under meet featured several Olympic Trial finalists and even a former Olympian.
At the junior nationals, Cimino set a HSA record with her time of 56.77 in the 100 butterfly. The 14-year-old swimming sensation was 72nd overall, but fourth against females her age or younger. Cimino was sixth in reference to swimmers her age or younger in the 50 fly, 12th in the 200 fly, 15th in the 500 freestyle, 16th in the 200 free and 20th in the 100 free.
Underwood, 13, finished fourth versus swimmers her age or younger in the 50 and 100 breaststroke as well as the 100 free. She was sixth in the 400 IM and ninth in the 200 IM.
For the boys, Harting, 15, was 10th in relation to swimmers his age or younger in the 100 fly with a time of 51.35. He was ninth in the 50 fly.
Espy, 15, was ninth in the 50 back against his age or younger, 78thoverall. He finished 22nd against his age bracket in the 100 back.
The combination of Smith, Espy, Calatrello and Harting set HSA team records in the 200 freestyle open relay and the 200 medley relay.
“It was awesome to watch this crop of HSA junior national swimmers figure out how to swim at a meet of this level,” Webber said. “It is never perfect the first time, but the attitudes and ethics were great.”
HSA originally formed in 1969. In the past three seasons, 112 of the 318 HSA team records have been shattered. Since 2009, roughly 35 percent of the overall records and 45 percent of the short course records have toppled.
“We stress relays and since 2009 we’ve broken 31 of 59 relay records, including 22 of 33 short course records,” Webber said. “So, not only have these athletes excelled individually, they have done well as a team. Teamwork is something we stress and that’s an amazing accomplishment.”
At the upcoming long course TYR IMX/IMReady meet, the turn walls go from 25 yards to 50 meters.
The meet is part of a series designed to help various age groups compete in multiple events, rather than specialize too early in their development in one or two strokes. This motivational program allows USA Swimming registered athletes from across the nation to compare themselves to thousands of other swimmers in their age group.
“This is a meet where we encourage swimmers to go a little bit outside of their comfort zone and swim events they may not normally swim,” Webber said. “It also encourages and rewards a well-rounded swimmer: one who is good at all four of the strokes, instead of specializing on one or two strokes.”
The IMX Invitational begins both days with warm-ups at 8 a.m. The first race is at 9. The meet features eight lanes of competition with electronic timing. Public viewing is free with plenty of seating available. Concessions and swim memorabilia will also be sold. This meet is sanctioned by Southeastern Swimming, Inc.
To qualify for the IMX rankings, the 10-and-unders must swim a 200 freestyle, 100 backstroke, 100 breaststroke, 100 butterfly and a 200 IM. The 11-12 year olds need to complete a 400 free (long course) or 500 free (short course), 100 back, 100 breast, 100 fly and 200 IM. The age 13-18 swimmers need to garner times in the 400 free (long course) or 500 free (short course), 200 back, 200 breast, 200 fly, 200 IM and 400 IM.
“We ask swimmers to do a lot and we challenge them,” Webber explained. “We ask them to be accountable. We keep time. We keep score. We ask them to be their best. We set the bar high and ask them to reach for it.”
These year-round swimmers compete against others and themselves. When an event is over, the athletes know exactly where they stand. After working hard in practice, they also know the times they want to achieve. And even when a swimmer fails, Webber believes they’ve won something.
“When a swimmer doesn’t achieve a goal they’ve worked their whole year for, it cuts me to the core. We’re together every day. I want it just as much as they do.
“But I watch what that kid does and how he handles that situation. I know in my soul that it’s good for them because it lets them grow up a little bit. It teaches them to strive for excellence and be okay with failure. It’s better than striving for mediocrity and getting it every time.”
Elite swimmers and teams from all over the southeast are entered in this major long course meet. For more information on the meet and HSA, you can visit their website at www.swimhsa.org.
Courtesy P.M. Black