Dozens of youth swimmers churn up water Tuesday in the pool at Moffat County High School. The Craig Sea Sharks, a team for youths ages 5 to 18, has been practicing for its summer season since last week. The 2013 team is nearly double the size it was last year.

Photo by Nate Waggenspack

Dozens of youth swimmers churn up water Tuesday in the pool at Moffat County High School. The Craig Sea Sharks, a team for youths ages 5 to 18, has been practicing for its summer season since last week. The 2013 team is nearly double the size it was last year.

Craig Sea Sharks begin practice for summer season

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— Moffat County’s high school boys swimming team finished its season last weekend at the 2013 state championships, but the next swimming season in Craig had already begun.

The Craig Sea Sharks, a youth swimming program for children ages 5 to 18, began practice in the high school pool last week. While it’s still too early to tell how strong all the swimmers on the team will be, the Sea Sharks got a big boost in numbers this year.

Coach Meghan Francone said last summer’s team had about 30 members, but this year’s group already has 50 swimming, with some high school-age members taking a couple weeks off before joining in on the work. The team will nearly double its numbers from a year ago.

“The program has really bloomed, so we’re very excited about that,” Francone said. “This is a large group for Craig, and I think it speaks volumes about the swim programs here.”

At the beginning of the season, Sea Sharks coaches face the challenges of getting younger swimmers used to the water and the various workouts. While some swimmers are veterans of the program and can hop in the water and get going with little instruction, others still need to pass their swim test or learn swimming jargon, Francone said.

The Sea Sharks compete mostly against other summer or year-round swim teams on the Western Slope, with the fastest members earning the right to swim at USA Swimming sectional or national events.

For many members of the Sea Sharks, sectionals are a ways off. Paul Jones, a new coach this year with the team, was working with a younger group of swimmers Tuesday and focusing on smaller objectives.

“We’re still really in the intro stage, so it’s a lot of freestyle work and just making sure they get used to getting across the pool,” Jones said. “Freestyle is that basic stroke, it’s the one everybody uses. So we’ll do mostly that, with some backstroke, then work in the more difficult strokes — breaststroke and butterfly. I want them to be well-rounded.”

For some of the children in their early years with the Sea Sharks, it could turn out to be the beginning of a lifelong passion, as it is for outgoing Moffat County seniors Eryn Leonard and Matt Hulstine, who have swum with the team for years. For others, it may be the means to another end. Both kinds of athletes will be better off for being there, Francone said.

“Swimming is one of those sports that helps with all sports,” she said. “Whether you think you want to play football or volleyball or soccer, swimming can help with any of those because it makes you stronger and gives you great conditioning.”

Nate Waggenspack can be reached at 970-875-1795 or nwaggenspack@craigdailypress.com

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