Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

July 23, 2013

Youth Sports: Making Waves -YMCA swimming team heads for Lone Star swimming meet

Mike Phillips
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — Jacob Reese can’t wait.

Says he so excited he is about to burst.

“Oh Man, I’m stoked,’’ said Jacob, who is one of the six members of the Corsicana YMCA swimming team headed for the Lone Star Swimming Meet this weekend in Frisco.

He’s 11.

All of the kids feel the same way.

It’s all new. All fresh. All eye-opening.

“It’s an honor. It’s a privilege,’’ said Joshua Monroy, who qualified in four events. “I’m pretty excited. There are going to be kids from all over Texas, and other states. It’s great to have a shot at it.’

The YMCA had a team a year ago, but those kids didn’t swim in the same classification that allows them to qualify for the Lone Star, the most prestigious YMCA meet of the year.

This is the first time the Corsicana YMCA is sending a team to the meet.

Joshua was on last year’s team and can appreciate what this meet means to him, to the team and to the Corsicana YMCA.

“This is a lot harder than last year,’’ said Joshua, who is 11. “Our coach left after last year, and I was pretty worried if we were going to have a new coach.’’

That’s when David Robertstad showed up. He is a former college football coach from California, where he was an graduate assistant coach at Cal-Berkley and USC. He later became an assistant coach at Navarro College. That’s what brought him to Corsicana years ago.

He learned how to coach swimming when his son, Grant, started swimming years ago. Grant is now 18 and he helps his father run the YMCA team. But when he started at age 9 there weren’t any competitive teams in Corsicana so Grant became a member of the Dallas Park Cities Club. David learned everything he could from the Park Cities coaches in order to help his son train. Now he’s giving it back to the kids at the YMCA — the ones who are just finding out how competitive swimming can be.

“I was amazed that we had a swimming team,’’ said Aniq Chunara, who qualified for four events in the 11-12-year-old  division. “I am so hyped up about going to the Lone Star. I’m ready to win.’’

 Joshua was on last year’s team and can appreciate what this meet means and what qualifying for the meet represents.

“This is a lot harder than last year,’’ he said. “We had to get serious. We would play before. We didn’t think it would be this hard, but it’s a challenge. You have to put in the work, but it’s worth it. I’m excited. I’m really excited.’’

Sarah Updegrove is a senior at Corsicana High and the oldest member of the YMCA team. There is no swimming program in high school, and Sarah, who fell in love with swimming when was just a little kid, was ecstatic when the YMCA formed a team. She jumped right in — to the team and the pool.

She has qualified in four events and will be swimming in the toughest division — 16 to 21.

 “I’ve been swimming all my life. We have a pool at home and I’ve been swimming since I was a little kid. I love it,’’ Sarah said. “I came here to be on the swimming team.’’

It was fate.

“I was driving by the YMCA and saw the sign out front about the swimming team, and I signed up,’’ she said.

But getting to Frisco wasn’t that easy.

To compete in the Lone Star Meet, kids had to swim state qualifying times in their division, and the Corsicana kids were a surprise and a delight. Robertstad couldn’t be prouder of them.

The Abbe kids came as a pair. Anna, who qualified in three events, is 11 and Owen, who qualified in two events, is 9. They both swam at the YMCA before there was a team or any chance to go to a state meet.

Then there’s Jacob, who has come so far so fast it’s almost scary. He has played baseball, soccer, basketball and flag football in organized leagues, but he says nothing — nothing — compares to swimming.

His family was on vacation in Mississippi last week, but Jacob was in the pool every day, and at one point during his preparation for the Lone Star Meet, he swam 2 1/2 miles in a workout — 150 laps in the pool that took him a grueling two and half hours. He did it on his own, and left his parents shaking their heads. He’s that tough, that dedicated — that sure that he was born to be in the pool.

“I want to go to the Olympics and beat Michael Phelps,’’ he said after practice on Tuesday. The fact Phelps probably won’t be swimming by the time Jacob, who will be in sixth grade this fall, gets there doesn’t faze him at all.

The idea of swimming competitively was always there with Jacob, who finally got a chance at the YMCA team last fall.

“I heard a girl in my class talking about how excited she was because the YMCA swimming tryouts were after school that day,’’ Jacob said. “When I heard her in my mind I said, ‘Yes!’ His voice got excited and he looked determined even at the memory of how he felt when he heard there was a swimming team. “I told my mom and we went to the tryouts.’’

Jacob didn’t make the team.

He couldn’t float on his back the distance of the pool.

This weekend, he will compete in the 50-meter backstroke, the 100-meter backstroke, the 50 butterfly and 100 butterfly as well as the 100 breaststroke. And of course, he will be racing in the 50 and 200 freestyle races. He had qualifying times in seven events.

Robertstad said Jacob just doesn’t miss practice, and Jacob said he loves it because the sport comes down to one thing — himself.

“I love to compete in swimming,’’ he said. “I try to shave a few seconds off the clock every time. I’m racing against myself. I’m racing against the clock. I’m racing against a time to beat. It feels really awesome when I know I’m getting faster and faster.’’

 No one knows how the Corsicana kids will do at the big meet that will bring in more than 700 kids in a long list of divisions.

The kids were all beaming about going this week.

“They call your name out when you get on the blocks,’’ Joshua said. “And the top 16 get medals. It’s awesome.’’

It will be unforgettable.

“We don’t have a culture in swimming here so we have to teach them from the ground up,’’ Robertstad said. “I don’t know how they will do. It will be an eye-opener. They will see when they get there that the competition is crazy. I hope it will inspire them to see what it’s all about.

“This is the end of their journey,’’ he said. “This was their goal. This is what they have been working for, but until you see it, you don’t know.

“How do they respond? Do they turn and run or do they come away from this meet and say, ‘Let’s keep going at it. Let’s keep working.’ They’re going to learn from this meet.’’