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Young Tampa swimmers take sixth at Junior Olympics

Several kids earned berths in the Junior National Championships this week in Gainesville.

By TERRY JONES

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 30, 2000


WESTCHASE -- If you didn't know Rich Rogers was building a successful swim team, you might think his young charges were practicing for gymnastics or track.

They're often on dry ground, hopping or tossing a medicine ball.

"Without starting blocks at the pool, we have to create exercises to help the kids train for strong starts," Rogers said. "Plyometrics are jumping exercises, designed to help develop explosive starts."

The medicine balls -- actually beach balls filled with sand and secured with duct tape -- help strengthen the young swimmers' arms.

"When we travel to compete in a meet, we always get there early to work out on the starting blocks at other pools."

Despite the equipment shortage, Westchase is the largest part of the Greater Tampa Swim Association team that originated at the University of Tampa nearly 30 years ago. The program was almost dormant until Rogers moved to Westchase and revived it about three years ago.

Laura and Royce Brown coach another part of the club that trains at UT. Both groups combine to compete as Greater Tampa Swim Association.

Twenty five of the team's swimmers qualified to compete at the Junior Olympics meet for ages 14-and-under July 20-23 in Orlando. They placed sixth overall in competition with 59 other clubs.

Chelsea Nauta, an 11-year-old Westchase resident, won five gold medals for individual events and was part of the relay teams that achieved top-16 national times. Her efforts earned her a berth in the Junior National Championships scheduled this week in Gainesville.

Other 11- and 12-year-old girls on the national qualifying relays included Brittany Nauta, Kim Iaquinto, Sarah Allen and Elisa Pineda. They will also compete in Gainesville.

Pineda, 11, also from Westchase, won the 100 breaststroke and placed fourth in the 200.

Chelsea Nauta won the 50 freestyle and backstroke, the 100 freestyle and the 200 backstroke and freestyle. She set state and Junior Olympics age group records in both the 100 freestyle (1:00.15) and 200 backstroke (2:32.58).

Nauta also was the high-point overall swimmer for her age group.

South Tampa's Stephanie Barker, 10, won high point honors for 10-and-under girls.

Barker won five gold and one bronze medal in individual events. She won the 50 and 100 butterfly, the 100 and 200 freestyle and the 200 individual medley and finished third in the 400 freestyle. She set a new J.O. record in the 100 freestyle, 1:07.98.

Paige Schmidt, Michelle Percante and Melissa Wentworth joined Barker to post top 16 in the nation times for 10-and-under relays, and therefore also qualified for the Gainesville meet.

Other members of the team helping score points in the J.O.s for 10-and-under boys were P.J. Malony, Eric Wilson, Matt Stumpf and John Nauta.

Kelsie Schmidt also swam for the 10-and-under girls.

Other team members who swam in Orlando included 11- and 12-year-old boys Tommy Wyher, Levi Curnutte, Chris Wilson and Ryan Stumpf and 11- and 12-year-old girls Marah Dolan, Alyssa Athan, Kelsey Greminger and Katherine Buchman.

Kassie Schmidt swam for girls ages 13-14 and Dylan Curnutte for the boys in the same age group.

"Many of our swimmers were taken back by the new four-day meet format," Laura Brown said. "However, they were swimming so fast they wanted more. They worked hard all year and were focused on winning at the J.O.'s."

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