Three Swimmers Set to Make A Splash at Junior Nationals
Three members of the Sandhills Sandsharks Swim team take off for a week in Orlando on Monday. But, they're not likely to have any time to visit Walt Disney World or any of the other tourist attractions while they're there.
It's going to be all business for Casey Cooper, Ana Fish and Kurt Wohlrab as they compete in the five-day Junior National Swimming Championships, beginning on Tuesday.
"We're probably not going to get to go anywhere because we have to save our legs for every part of the meet," Cooper says, not complaining. "We have races scheduled throughout the week so we won't have any time to slack off."
About 1,100 swimmers from all over the country are expected to compete in the event that attracts many college coaches. Sandsharks' coach Taylor Cooper estimates that 12 to 15 members have qualified for the national championship in the 26 years the club has been in existence.
The most recent, Emily Michael (Campbell), Greg Doughty (SMU) and Sage Erskine (Brown), are currently swimming at the college level.
"For me, the most exciting thing about nationals was always was meeting people from different places," Taylor Cooper says. "This will be the fastest meet these kids have been to."
A junior at Pinecrest, Casey Cooper is the daughter of Taylor and Marcy Cooper. She finished fourth in the 100 yard backstroke at the NCHSAA 4A state high school meet last month. She qualified for the Orlando event during a Sandsharks' meet held at the University of South Carolina in December.
A busy schedule this week includes the 50, 100 and 200 backstroke races, the 50 freestyle and the 100 butterfly.
"Casey is prepared," Taylor Cooper says of his daughter, who is nearing the time when she will be making a decision on where she wants to continue her education and swimming career after high school. "She got her cuts (qualifying times) out of the way in December, so we were able to adjust her season to prepare for this."
Fish and Wohlrab are both freshmen at Pinecrest. Fish and her twin sister Alyssa, who is also a member of the Sandshark and Pinecrest teams, are daughters of Curt and Susan Fish. She joined the Sandsharks shortly after moving to the area from Puerto Rico about five years ago.
In the state meet, Fish finished seventh in the 50 yard freestyle. She and Wolhrab qualified for the national meet at a sectional competition held in Cary about two weeks ago. This week she will compete in the 50 and 100 freestyle events.
Both freshmen look at the national meet as a learning experience as well as a chance to test themselves against the nation's best 18 and under swimmers.
"There are going to be swimmers with a lot more experience," Fish says. "I'm just trying to see what times I can get and how much I can improve. I'm going to try really hard to do my best."
Wohlrab moved here from Hawaii with his parents Kurt and Julie Wohlrab about two years ago. His sister, Meagan, a senior, also swims for Pinecrest and the Sandsharks. He finished 12th in the 100 breaststroke at the state high school meet. He is scheduled to compete in the 100 and 200 breaststroke this week.
He feels being a member of a small club like the Sandsharks (about 90 members) has helped him develop as a swimmer.
"When I lived in Hawaii, I was on a much larger team than this," he says. "It's totally different how much more coaching you get compared to when you are on a bigger team."
Casey Cooper is concerned about missing a whole week of school, but the experience is one reserved for only a select group of swimmers.
"I've been on the team since I was little, and I've seen a lot of people go to nationals," she says. "So it's kind of always been a goal. I've been working on making the cut for about three years. I'm really excited to go, and I'm ready for it."
For information about the Sandhills Sandsharks Swim Team and its programs, go to www.sandshark.org.
Contact Charlie Bergmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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