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Swim team is driven, but not to exhaustion

Coaches at the New Tampa YMCA see the payoff by balancing competition and letting teenagers be teenagers.

By JOEL POILEY
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 28, 2002


TAMPA PALMS -- Swimming success doesn't have to mean all strokes and no play.

Mitzi Kremer and Mark Tighe, aquatics director and coordinator at the New Tampa YMCA, make sure of that. Kremer, an Olympic bronze medalist, endorses a measured approach.

"We concentrate more on quality versus quantity," Kremer said. "We want them to have something to build on and not get burned out. That's why we stress teamwork, getting along with each other and making the experience fun."

Kremer and Tighe's methods are working; their team of 11 swimmers head to their first National Long Course Championships Monday through Friday at the University of Maryland. The event is for swimmers 12 to 18 years old who achieved qualifying times in local and state meets.

The team practices two hours in the morning and 11/2 hours in the afternoon -- short workouts by most clubs standards. But Kremer points to many of her swimmers with competitive national times as evidence that long hours in the pool don't necessarily guarantee national acclaim.

"We want them to see you can balance being a competitive swimmer with being a normal teenager and you don't have to give up all the things you like to do," said Kremer, who gained a medal in the 4x100 relay at the 1988 Seoul Games.

Margie Chamberlin, Audrey Prior and Michael Silva are the team's best shots at bringing home medals at the nationals.

Silva, a 14-year-old entering Tampa Catholic this fall, recently won the 13-14 boys championship at the Junior Olympics meet in Orlando in the 100-meter breaststroke with a time of 1:11.02. He also has a personal best of 2:20.90 in the 200 breaststroke.

Chamberlin, also 14 and entering Land O' Lakes High this fall, specializes in the 100 and 200 butterfly, with qualifying times of 1:07.20 in the 100 and 2:29.84 in the 200.

Prior, a 15-year-old sophomore at Wharton High, excels in the 200 backstroke with a qualifying time of 2:29.88.

Kremer said Chamberlin has a good shot at a top eight finish, and Silva and Prior should compete for top 16 spots in their events.

"This is a steppingstone to making the U.S. Open in December," said Kremer, who holds the fourth fastest time in U.S. history in the 200-meter freestyle, according to USA Swimming, the governing organization for competitive swimming.

Kremer's older swimmers appreciate the less-is-more approach.

"I've been with Mitzi since I was 11, so this is all I know," said 17-year-old Ellen Heise, who attends Wharton. "But from I've seen with other teams, they work them so long and so hard kids get burned out."

Other team members are Yannick Morgan, Barrett Eubanks, Kelly Hug, Kevin Hug, Josh Cohen, Sidney Osterhout and Jackie Cavalieri.

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