The kids — young ones — are coming to a pool near you.
(And local swimming officials want to keep them in the water.)
As something of a warm-up to a highly anticipated 14-and-under club clash in two weeks, Curl-Burke Swim Club’s best youngsters met North Baltimore Aquatic Club’s best 14-and-unders, going at it in a friendly but spirited competition at Loyola College in Baltimore Sunday.
The meet represented everything local coaches say they want more of: frequent competitions with a team-oriented focus that are tailored to youngsters — and thus won’t drag on all day, exhausting the kids and their parents.
More than 80 Curl-Burke athletes convened at 6 a.m. for a bus ride to Baltimore, swam against NBAC’s young swimmers (winning, 755 to 575), and returned to Northern Virginia by noon.
“It’s really something that a lot of clubs are going to, and I think it’s of great value,” said Curl-Burke Coach Rick Curl. “It’s user-friendly for sure. That’s one issue with our sport, we’re not as family friendly as we need to become.”
Indeed, attending a weekend swim meet, which might stretch all day over three days, isn’t necessarily attractive to beginning or younger swimmers. Local coaches are trying to create more — and better — competitive opportunities for 9-to-14-year-olds, while ensuring that they learn as much about playing for a team as athletes in more traditional team sports.
The Nov. 7-8 National Age Group Team Challenge Meet, directed by Rockville-Montgomery Swim Club Coach Dave Kraft, won’t offer as abbreviated a schedule as Sunday’s dual meet, but it will demand less of a time commitment than traditional swim meets while also providing what organizers believe will be unrivaled club competition for kids under 14.
Squads from Curl-Burke, Machine Aquatics, NOVA of Virginia Aquatics, Rockville-Montgomery will face each other as well as teams from Long Island, Delaware and Maryland at the Germantown Indoor Swim Center. Though there will be individual events, the focus will be on team scoring and relays.
The idea behind the meet is, eventually, to get the top clubs in the nation to attend and duke it out to see who is best in a head-to-head event (RMSC and Curl-Burke finished ranked first and second in USA Swimming’s annual Virtual Club Championships for the past two years).
But for now, the meet merely offers a way for kids to race each other in an environment in which individual performances are de-emphasized in a fast-paced, excitement-oriented meet.
“It is the coolest meet in the world,” said Rockville-Montgomery Coach Dave Greene. “We’re putting almost the entire emphasis on team as opposed to individual, and they love it.”
Sunday’s meet between Curl-Burke and NBAC, the home club of Michael Phelps, wasn’t designed to showcase individual stars, but it did highlight two of the region’s top young swimmers — Curl-Burke’s Janet Hu, 13, and NBAC’s Willa Wang, 14.
Hu won four golds (two individual and two relay) and Wang won two individual golds, one individual silver and one relay silver. NBAC’s Alec Cosgarea, 14, the younger brother of USA Swimming National Youth Team member Drew Cosgarea; Curl-Burke’s Katie Ledecky, 12; Curl’s Brittany Creasy, 12, and Curl’s Robert Qian, 10, also stood out.
“For the younger ones, the more competition they get, the better,” Curl said. “It was really competitive. It was great to see.”
Complete results, click here.