This report was contributed by Christina Wright, who was on-deck at the Schroeder YMCA A+ Meet this weekend in Milwaukee. She is a former competitive swimmer for the Oakland Live Y’ers (think Vanderkaay), a 2003 graduate of Columbia where she was the captain of the swim team as a junior, and has recently taken up swimming again with the Schroeder Masters team. She also writes for www.thirdcoastdigest.com.
On the coldest weekend of the year, Milwaukee’s Walter Schroeder Aquatic Center was the hottest place to be. International stars and local standouts alike brought an electric atmosphere to the 33rd Annual Schroeder A+ meet. And, above all, it was a fun swim meet. Olympic gold medalist Anthony Ervin, 31, was simply having a blast winning the 100 free in 42.48 and the 50 free in a meet record time of 19.47—all with a relaxed smile on his face. Milwaukee is just one stop on Ervin’s current domestic swimming tour that has carried over from his international world cup odyssey. He’s jumped from the Olympic Training Center to Connecticut, Washington DC, Texas, Upstate New York, and Michigan all before stopping in Wisconsin. Then there’s a stop in Florida before a hop across the pond to Marseilles, France and London, England. But the travel is all part of the journey as this is absolutely the most enjoyment that Ervin has experienced during his swimming career. “It’s awesome to be able to just work out and swim as my job. It’s the best job I’ve ever had,” he says.
Ervin never had the pleasure of meeting an Olympian during his formative swimming years, so he understands the impact that such an interaction can have on younger athletes. “The hope is that I can somehow effect positive change on the kids and on the sport,” he shared on the eve of this unique pro/age-group bipurpose event.
“I go to meets and clinics and I get to see kids’ faces light up,” Ervin says, “I was hanging out with one of the teams during the prelims on Saturday and some of the little kids started trickling in for their session. One of the little girls walked up into to the stands and saw me and she just stared, slack-jawed. I’m just a normal person and it’s just awesome to be able to light up some little kid’s face simply for being a fast swimmer.”
Considering that Ervin is such a music fan, it’s interesting that he typically refrains from strapping on the headphones pre-race. “I like to get into the rhythm of the meet. Music is not a tool that I use to focus on my races.”
USA National Team member Eugene Godsoe, 25, is also finding happiness in the pool. After finishing 5th in the 100 back at the 2012 Olympic Trials Godsoe reevaluated his swimming career. “I have a whole new perspective now,” he says. “I’m enjoying it a lot more than I have before and I’m also swimming a lot faster than I ever have. This is definitely the most fun I’ve ever had during my swimming career. I’m just having a lot of fun every step of the way whether it’s practice or meets.”
Godsoe’s insane underwater kicking was certainly on display at the Schroeder Aquatic Center. He touched the wall in 1:41.82 in the 200 back, breaking Matt Grevers’ 2008 meet record of 1:42.65. His 100 back was an equally impressive 45.47, another meet record. “My underwater kicking technique is definitely years in the making,” he says. “When I got to Stanford it became pretty obvious that underwater kicking was what made the best college swimmers the best. So I spent my first three years of college trying to perfect it—the speed, the power, the endurance, trying to hold your breath that long. It’s nice for me to have that weapon and I absolutely plan to keep using it as a weapon, even in long course.”
Adam Mania, who swam for Poland in the 2004 Olympics, was second to Godsoe in the 100 back in a time of 47.44. The two are good friends and Mania says that, while it wasn’t his best race, any chance to race against one of the best backstrokers in the world is always a great opportunity.
Both Ervin and Godsoe have their sights set on making the US world championship team. Canadian Olympian and University of Minnesota graduate Jillian Tyler, 24, has also set specific goals for 2013. “The Canadian world championship trials are April 3 – 6 so my goal is to make the world championship team,” she says. On Saturday in Milwaukee she won the 100 breast in a meet record time of 1:00.19, a race that helped her to “shake the cobwebs off” after a training trip to Hawaii with her alma mater. She also dominated the 200 breast on Sunday, winning in 2:12.98, also a meet record. Tyler has a constellation of star and snowflake tattoos across her back, making for a fun visual during her breaststroke races. “I didn’t even realize how my back tattoos looked when I was swimming until I saw a picture from last year’s Canadian world championship team trials,” Tyler says. “I saw the picture and thought, ‘Oh, that looks cool.’”
Tyler’s University of Minnesota teammate Ashley Steenvoorden, 22, swept all of the distance events, clocking a 9:40.31 in the 1000 on Friday night, 4:44.73 in the 500 on Saturday night, and 16:11.36 in the mile on Sunday afternoon. Steenvoorden bested meet records in all three events.
Schroeder’s own Alexandra Meyers, 16, and Abigail Raatz, 17, went one-two in the 100 free with times of 50.66 and 50.83 respectively. Meyers also won the 200 free in 1:49.64. Their spots at the top of the Wisconsin sprint food chain will likely be tested by Beata Nelson, the fourteen-year-old high school freshman who dominated the women’s 13-14 age group events. Nelson swam the 100 free in 50.66, 100 back in 55.52, 100 fly in 55.63, and 200 back in 2:01.13. All of Nelson’s times aside from the 100 back were Meet Records
This meet annually attracts a good contingent of pros, and a lot of that credit is due to the charismatic Mania, a part of the Schroeder coaching staff, who has friends in every corner of the swimming community. That’s an amazing opportunity for these young swimmers in Wisconsin, and as Ervin discussed, a more amazing opportunity perhaps for the pros.