NCSA Junior Nationals – A View From the Cheap Seats

by Dean Ottati 7

April 03rd, 2014 Club, National, News

Last week we attended the NCSA Junior Nationals.  As it was our first experience travelling across the country for a meet, I decided to attend as a parent and not a reporter.  Still, I couldn’t completely help myself.  Here are some of the notes from the cheap seats.


The YMCA Aquatic Center in Orlando is a nice facility.  50 meter competition pool, as well as two warm up pools.  All indoors.  Spectator seating is a bit limited, but parents seem to cycle in an out by event and all are accommodated.  The seats in the top row, with the windows just behind and the breeze they provide, are especially nice.

Don’t know which team it is, but LOVE the T-Shirts with the GEICO Camel asking:  “What day is it?”  Never saw those shirts again after Wednesday. Clearly this was hump day attire only.

During the mens 100 breast final, I decide to root for Connor Hoppe, simply because he’s also from California.   Naturally I come to find out that Carston Vissering’s dad and grandparents are sitting behind us.  Carston has a great last turn, passing Hoppe, winning the race, going under 53 for the first time.

Carston’s dad and I talk, and for awhile we are just two swim dads, comparing notes about the college visits we will be taking after the meet.  I’m sworn to secrecy as to which schools Carston is going to go see.  But I think it fair to say that when it comes to choosing a college, young Mr. Vissering will have a high class problem on his hands.  Go get em Carston.

Kylie Stewart is incredible, pulling away from the field, breaking 1:50 to win the 200 back!  It will turn out to be the fastest women’s 200 back of the week, including the NCAA championships.  It’s a textbook swim.  Georgia will go on to win NCAA’s later in the week, and with Stewart in the lineup, the rich will get richer.

Walking out, I find myself standing next to none other than Simone Manual.  She just went 47.09 in the 100 free.   Now I wish I had brought my camera or recorder, attending this thing as a reporter.  Instead, I just tell her she did a great job.  She is lovely and gracious as well as a force and a presence.  Stanford will be lucky to have her.


I love talking to parents in the stands.  Today my wife and I sat with Karen Tosh, mother of Caleb Tosh.  I’m told that these are the most common questions for Caleb: “Are you related to Danial Tosh?”  Yes, Caleb and Daniel are cousins once removed.  “What’s he really like?”  Caleb’s dad knows him better and Caleb doesn’t know him all that well.   I’m also told that when he’s stepping up on the blocks to race isn’t the really the preferred time to ask Caleb about all this.  So consider these answers my public service for him.  Caeleb had a great 200 fly the night before, earning a second swim.  He’s thrilled to be attending the University of South Carolina in the fall, both as an academic scholar and as a preferred walk on.  I step away to get coffee, and while I’m gone, Caleb stops by to visit his mom and charms the heck out of my wife.  When I meet him, I’m reminded yet again, how blessed our sport is with so many high quality young people.  USC is one lucky school and swim program.  Best of luck to you Caleb!  You now officially have fans rooting for you in California.

Word leaks out that I sometimes write for SwimSwam, and the biggest question is:  Who is Bobo Gigi?  It turns out Bobo has a very big fan base.  But I don’t know who he, or she, is, but count me in as a big fan too.

Notice comments on SwimSwam about the size of the meet.  ~1800 swimmers.  From an efficiency perspective, this meet is well run, with only about 6 – 9 seconds between heats.  Yes, we were curious, so we timed it.  Morning session ends about 1:00, and the meet seems manageable.

Decided to skip watching the finals this evening.  The boys on our team need a break.  The lay of the land in Orlando is if you head out of the pool and turn right on International Drive, you’ll find great restaurants and higher end tourist traps.  If you turn left, you’ll find fast food and lower end tourist traps.  Naturally we turn left.  Take in a dinner show that involves pirates, a kidnapped maiden, a hero who apparently comes back from the dead, and a Kraken.  Don’t ask me any more, cuz all I can say is there was a lot going on.  It was all way too silly and kid oriented, but the show ends early, and provides the boys with just the right amount of distraction.


The Friday morning warm up music ends with the Village People’s YMCA.  If someone has a video of the several hundreds of swimmers behind the blocks spelling YMCA with their arms during the song, please post the link!

Apparently there is an issue with scheduled meet volunteers, and timers are needed.  I agree to fill in.  Unfortunately, I agreed to this just as I was finishing a very large cup of coffee.  It would turn out to be a 3+ hour stint without a break or refreshment.  But I find myself in lane 5 of the men’s course, which is awesome.

Turns out that when you are the lone hand timer, button timer, and recorder in the lane, and there are only 6 – 9 seconds between heats, you gotta be on your game to get everything written down, watch reset, and started in time.

I’m not a Star Trek guy, so I blame some of the people I work with when the thought crosses my mind that Nick Arakelian has to have the Star Trekiest  name in swimming as in: “Captain, an Arakelian battle cruiser has just emerged from hyper space in lane sector 5…”  Of course I decide there isn’t enough time to explain the joke, if there even is a joke, so instead I tell him “you’re having a great meet so far, go get em!”  He smiles and seems pleased.   “Thanks,” he says. Swimmers get so little recognition, so here is some for Nick:  Two nights ago he swam a 4:21.3 in the 500 free, and last night he swam a 1:37.08 200 free.   Today Nick swims his best time in the 200 breast by 3 seconds, just over the 2:00 mark.  Tonight he would go even faster.  Queens college of Charlotte is getting one heck of a recruit.

Swimmers are getting huge!  In the later heats of the men’s events, I have to stand as far back against the rope as possible.  Even then, when some of these guys are swinging their arms behind their back, I need to lean further backward to avoid getting slapped.  The size and caliber of athlete going into swimming probably helps explain the assault the record books are under.

While I watched him swim several times, I never personally heard Michael Andrew speak.  The word from behind the blocks is his voice is still changing.  There appears to be much more upside folks.  What I do know is his pre-race routine behind the blocks is very consistent, and the way he is swimming best times every weekend has challenged me to re-think some of my assumptions of what’s possible.  It makes me wonder just how much of what I think I know is wrong…

We may one day look back on this era as one of incredible swimming innovation.  Lucas Kalixzak has a backstroke like none I’ve seen before.  His shoulders are relatively flat with neither emerging from the water, and his arms have about a 45 degree over water recovery.  It looks like he’s pushing a lot of water with his shoulders, but unlike more traditional backstroke, it also appears he has a power phase of his pull in the water at all times.  The strength of his lats and not so much his pecs provides the propulsion throughout.  He’s a strong kid.  He also appears to be doing the backstroke equivalent of pressing his chest down, raising the rest of his body out of the water.  I’d really like to see more of his technique so I can understand better what exactly he’s doing.  Whatever it is, it’s fast.   Taken in summary, Lucas Kaiszak can call himself a NCSA Jr. Nationals champion, posting a 46.47.  I suspect we will see more swimmers using this technique in the future.

In Greek Mythology, the action is always taking place on two levels at once:  That of the humans and that of the Gods.  Occasionally, one of the Gods comes down from on high and empowers one of the humans with extra strength, courage, and ability.  During these times, the humans are said to have a glow, to exude a radiance, to be extra beautiful.  I swear during the prelims of the men’s 100 butterfly, Andrew Seliskar has been touched by the Gods and is starting to glow.  He posts a 47 low in the prelims, but I can’t shake the notion that he is about to do something really special.  I tell him what a good swim I thought it was…twice…  That night Seliskar unleashes one of the most incredible swims I’ve ever seen, a 1:52.2  200 breast.  Before that swim he posts a 46 second 100 back, and  after those two swims, he throws in a 46.5 100 fly for good measure.  It’s one of the greatest single hours of racing I’ve seen in some time.

Shout out to the 800 freestyle relay from North Bay Aquatics sporting their Team Theo shirts and caps (Team Theo story here).  Tried to take a picture of the team to send to Theo, to let him know people are thinking about him, but got stopped by the official.  No pictures from behind the blocks…Understand the rule, but this case is a letter of the law violation with the kids voluntarily posing, not a spirit of the law violation, but nuance is in short supply these days, so many thanks to Coach DeMont for taking the picture off to the side of the pool while I resumed timing.  Theo and family enjoyed it.  NBA you do good work.

Courtesy: Dean Ottati

Courtesy: Dean Ottati

The last 15 heats of women in the last event of the morning swim their races on the men’s side of the pool.  I get to watch the future of Stanford women’s swimming with Janet Hu Simone Manual racing each other in the fly.  The next day, Stanford would finish second at NCAA’s.  The future for Stanford looks bright indeed.

The final prelim warm up song of the week is “Think” by Aretha Franklin.  It’s my favorite moment in the Blues Brother’s movie, and even though that film is well before these kids time, the energy in the song transcends.

It’s funny, a great many college swim coaches attend this meet.  As I sit in the stands I watch coaches from dozens of schools stream by.  There are a few that I’ve met, and there are a couple with whom our son wishes to speak. But, he’s a junior in high school, and by NCAA rule he can’t talk to any of them other than to say ‘hi.’  The rule protects both swimmers and coaches from being cornered I suppose, but it also causes me to wonder what it is that coaches see and gain from attending such a meet.  I suspect there is a coaches networking opportunity, lines of communication to which I’m not privy… but somehow the rule seems a little stifling and forced…I’d love a coach’s perspective on this.

And today is the day we finally learn why 1800 swimmers in a meet really is a lot.  The most common parental refrain from the stands today is “s/he looks tired.”  The meet ran as scheduled every day and ended as planned, but it comes at the expense of an extra day of competition when compared to Winter Jrs..  The fifth day of competition turns out to be a lot.

In general, the parents are right.  Saturday is a day when the time it takes to qualify for a second swim is generally a little slower than the equivalent seed time coming in.

During the afternoon, we sneak off to another YMCA to get our own swim in.  It is another first rate facility.  YMCA’s are apparently a big deal in Florida.  Much nicer than anything I’ve seen in California.

The boys aren’t swimming, so we decide to skip the finals.   There are too many great restaurants, and tourist traps to explore.  The weather is perfect, and the night is calling to us… I like Orlando.

Congratulations to all the kids who participated.  Whenever I’m around so many disciplined, talented, and engaging young people, my faith in the future is restored.

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8 years ago

It was a pleasure sitting with you and your wife, Dean! One of the best things about being a swim parent, in my opinion, is how quickly you make friends with other parents. I love hearing about what swimmers around the nation are doing and getting to know their parents, even if it is just for a weekend! Thanks for the shout out to Caleb in the article, now he knows he’s made it! 😉 Good luck to both you and your son, and who knows, maybe we’ll meet in the cheap seats again one day!

Swimlazy: In an interview with Michael Andrew, on Florida Swim Network’s facebook page, he said the plan was to swim at a meet in… Read more »

Carsten's Dad
8 years ago

Dean – thanks for keeping quiet on Carsten’s college visits. It would be a long way for me to come find you and break your knee caps! This was a fun article to read and I enjoyed chatting with you at the meet.

Bobo – you have a huge fan base at NCAP as well. We are always trying to figure out how you keep up with all the swimming and picture you in a large room full of computers and TV screens monitoring all the world’s ongoing swimming events.

bobo gigi
8 years ago

😆 😆 😆 😆
Thanks for mentioning me!
Just because I was almost the only one on earth to comment the finals live on swimswam?
Too much honor. :oops;
To answer your question, Bobo Gigi is a French guy who is a simple swimming fan. :mrgreen:

Great summary of the meet.

Reply to  bobo gigi
8 years ago

Bobo Gigi: since you seem to be very on top of all these meets, do you know if Michael Andrew is swimming in a meet this weekend? A few posts indicated that he may be, but not sure which meet it is if any.


Reply to  bobo gigi
8 years ago

You DO have a lot of fans Bobo Gigi! If SwimSwam had “like” or “follow” buttons, you’d be winning the Worlds Best Swimming Fan contest by a mile!

8 years ago

Great article with a neat perspective, well done.

8 years ago

Thanks Mr. Ottati, it’s a privilege to be mentioned! 🙂 My mom and I really enjoyed visiting with you guys in the stands. It’s great to see a full summary of the meet.

About Dean Ottati

At various time in his life, Dean has been a summer rec swimmer, an AAU swimmer (yes, he is that old), a swim coach, a swim team director (social suicide through volunteerism), a meet director, a starter, an official, and just about everything else a swimmer/parent can be.  He currently …

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