Friday, December 24, 2010

TYR Capital Classic

This past weekend, I helped out with the Swimming World TV coverage of the TYR Capital Classic. From Cary, North Carolina, I helped Garrett McCaffrey call all the races from the meet, all of which are now available to watch on-demand. Though I know this blog is coming several days late, I wanted to share some thoughts on the great swimming I saw, the great meet the YMCA of the Triangle Area (YOTA) put on, and gratitude to all who made my experience this past weekend possible and a great experience.

First, the swimming. In the very first swim I saw after arriving late Friday afternoon, Michael Hughes broke the American disability record in 50 fly for the S6 division. His 39.02 took seven seconds off the old record of 46.01. A record is always a great way to start, but it kept going. Joe Bonk opened up the regular meet program with a 20.4 50 free split anchoring YOTA's 200 medley relay, and then Ashlee Linn threw down a 1:48 200 free. Linn would go on to win the 50 free, 100 free, and 200 back, post the top time of the meet in the 100 back (relay lead-off), finish second in both IMs, and break 5:00 for the first time in finishing fourth in the 500 free. I watched her interview with Garrett, and she is very well-spoken, her interview one of the best I saw this weekend. I highly recommend checking out her interview (along with the others).

In the 13-14 age group, Alex Katz put on quite a show. On Friday, he won the 200 free in 1:41, followed by the 400 IM in 4:03. On Saturday, he took the 50 free and 500 free, in which he swam a 4:28, almost beating the winning time in the senior race. With at least three years remaining in which he can attend the meet, he will have numerous more shots at the meet record, which is a 4:25 - held by U.S. National teamer Charlie Houchin! On the final night, he won the 100 free and 200 back in succession, before Colin Ellington took it to him in the 200 IM, winning it with a monster breaststroke leg. When Katz beat Ellington in the 100 free, a fan behind Garrett and me shouted, "Watch him (Ellington), he's gonna take over next year!" It didn't take even that long, however, for him to get a win, and Ellington's fan club, seated behind us, erupted with that win.

The host club's own Dominick Glavich won the title of swimmer of the meet. Glavich, a future swimmer at the University of North Carolina, won the 100 breast, 100 fly, 200 fly, 100 back, and 200 IM over the course of the three day meet. In the 200 fly, his 1:47.87 beat Houchin's meet record, while his dominant 200 IM (1:48.91) was quite something as well. In three of his races, Glavich beat future Florida Gator Nicholas Caldwell. Caldwell skipped some of his signature races this weekend, such as the 500 free and 400 IM, but his third leg on the 800 free relay might be my favorite moment of the weekend. Caldwell, of Sarasota YMCA, dove in several seconds behind YOTA, before absolutely obliterating his competition with a 1:36.16 split for a 200 free! Interestingly, YOTA switched their order shortly before the race, so Caldwell ran down Nathan Walters, not Joe Bonk, on the third leg.

After Bonk split a 20.4 anchoring the 200 medley relay on Sunday, I made a bet with YOTA head coach Chad Onken about what Bonk could do in the individual 50 free. The bet was: I would pay Chad $1 if Bonk swam 20.69 or faster, and Chad would pay me $1 if Bonk swam 20.70 or faster. Sure enough, Bonk led off the 200 free relay in 20.65. Chad immediately texted Garrett (for me), "You got Bonked." In the individual race, Bonk had a terrible start and "only" swam a time of 20.82. I said I won the bet; Chad said he won. I told him we'd call it a draw. In the 100 free the next day, Chad predicted Bonk would swim a 44.9 - which he did, to the tenth. Later on, he led off the 400 free relay in 44.6! There is a reason Auburn sent Aaron Ciarla and Richard Long to the meet.

Finally, I want to give a shout-out to Sabrina Benson. The now-YOTA and future Virginia Tech swimmer showed up to the meet with an injured knee and having missed several weeks of training. She still proceeded to throw down a 56.34 100 back, faster than she did last year, on her way to a win at YMCA Nationals, where she swam a 53. A very brave and impressive swim.

For the first time this year,
YOTA held the meet at the Triangle Aquatic Center in Cary. Being from South Carolina, I have seen a handful of pools in the southeast, but none better than this one. The amount of deck space, size of warm-up area and the stands, and pool set-up is unmatched in this area. Great venue for both a swim meet and a Christmas YMCAparade.

YOTA put on an excellent meet this weekend for swimmers, coaches, and media. Head coach Chad Onken made sure that Garrett and I could get to where we needed to be when we wanted to be there. Hospitality saved us many times throughout the meet - I ate most of my meals there, and I think we took 30 water bottles over the course of the weekend. Additionally, the meet ran exceptionally well and quickly, all a credit to YOTA.

Additionally, I owe a big thank-you to Swimming World, especially to Garrett and also Brent Rutemiller. Garrett was awesome this weekend, making sure I did what I was supposed to do at all times and that I was comfortable at all times. Additionally, he showed me the ropes of streaming a meet and how to handle all of the content. I am extremely grateful; without him being there, I would not have had this opportunity to work at the Capital Classic. Additionally, I thank Brent for agreeing to cover all my expenses the entire weekend; I spent $17 over the course of the meet; and at least $12 of that went to the Fran Crippen Elevation Foundation.

Finally, I had an amazing swim-geek experience in the Triangle Area this weekend. Garrett and Chad took my questions about swimming and answered them. I am greatful that both appreciate my extreme passion about swimming and try to help it grow. In addition to Long and Ciarla of Auburn, I met University of South Carolina coach Jason Mermont, who provided some interesting insight of his own from his own perspective in the SEC. Finally, former University of Arizona NCAA champ Taylor Baughman, now working with Evan Morgenstein and Premier Management, provided insight into the west coast of competitive swimming as well as the agents she represents.

I apologize to anyone who I met this weekend and failed to mention. It was an awesome experience that I hope I am fortunate enough to have again in the future!

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