Rain, sunshine, and extreme heat didn’t stop the Waconia Water Dragons from conquering the pool this summer. The swimmers faced it all and came out ahead, with 14 athletes qualifying to compete in championship swim meets.
During the summer season, swimmers have the opportunity to compete at several different finals meets, including C finals, A/B finals, and the state meet. As swimmers achieve faster times in each event, they can become eligible to swim the events at higher level meets. Andrea Voelker, 10, led the way for the Water Dragons when she swam at the Minnesota State Championship meet. While swimming at the University of Minnesota, Voelker competed in three events and swam to a best time in her 50-meter backstroke. She finished 17th in the event.
Held in Mankato, the A/B finals championship meet saw seven Water Dragons compete, all of who achieved one or more personal best times. The team was led by Harley Ruiz, 15, who won the 1,000-meter freestyle in the girls’ 15-16 age group. Ruiz set a new personal best by more than 16 seconds.
Twelve Water Dragons swam at the C finals in Bloomington, setting new personal records in nearly every race. Several Water Dragons went home with first place accolades, including Anneli Paulson, 11, who won four events. Nicole Schuler, 12, added three victories, while Ruiz won two events. Carrie Thom and Emma Lohman, 13, each won an event as well.
The outstanding swims marked a great end to the season for the Waconia Swim Club, which seeks to promote swimming in order to build confidence, character, and ability through instruction and opportunity, according to the club’s website. Amy Howard-Schmitt, head coach of the Water Dragons, believes the performance of the swimmers at championship meets demonstrates that each swimmer took advantage of opportunities to improve.
“Part of our mission statement is to build confidence, character, and ability,” Howard-Schmitt said. “During the finals meet, I saw the fruit of our labor in our kids in the way they focused and performed. We had such swings of natural adversity, from stifling heat to downpours of rain, to bee stings just seconds before swimming an important race. An important part of what we do is to build the ability to stay in the moment despite the situation or surroundings. My kids did just that and more – not only did they tune out the negative, but they swam faster than ever.”
Swimmers in the C finals included Tate Mauer, Chloe Thurk, Maria Stipek, Paulson, Katie Kray, Lohman, Thom, Megan Schuler, Ruiz, Karissa Ohlsen, Marie Geller, and Nicole Schuler. Many of the same athletes competed at the A/B finals, including Ruiz, Lohman, Thom, Nicole Schuler, Paulson, Voelker, and MacKenzie DeLeo. Voelker was the only Water Dragon to compete at the state championship meet.
The Water Dragons are preparing for the fall season, which begins Sept. 17. The club, which is open to all swimmers who can complete a length of the pool in each stroke, welcomes new participants each session. Registration for new swimmers will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 27 at Safari Island. For more information about the Waconia Water Dragons, visit the team’s website at www.waconiaswimclub.com.