Family Y Water Rat Swimmers Rise to Recent Challenges

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Water Rats at Nike meet in Nashville: Bottom row, left to right -- Jordan Santarella, Becky McCain, Aileen Coyne. Middle row, left to right -- Luke Morrison, Daniel Williams, Jake Hoin, Jonathan Blansfield. Top row, left to right -- Chris Mombello, Edward Stolarski, Michael Deluca, Bryce Keblish, Tommy Gannon.

Of all the inspiring stories to arise from our Y’s encounter with Superstorm Sandy, the Water Rat Swim Team’s efforts stand out. Just as the swim season’s meets were scheduled to begin, the team found itself without a pool for over a month.

Head Coach Ellen Johnston and her staff scrambled and improvised mightily to get their swimmers pool time at the Wilton YMCA and at Staples High School, as well as to arrange “dry” sessions of spinning classes and other workouts at accommodating local partners like Intensity Fitness in Norwalk. Ellen also arranged, on very short notice, to move the season’s first home meet, the Freestyle Frenzy, to Wesleyan University.

The Water Rats practice schedule has been haphazard and, to put it mildly, anything but routine.

In a note of gratitude to Water Rat parents, posted on the Rats’ website, Head Age Group Coach Mark Sedlak  thanked the swimmers, parents and coaches for remaining so flexible during this difficult time.

“If there was any question before as to what kind of swim team we have, the Water Rats repeatedly demonstrated what an awesome club we are while parents worked together to ferry kids to Wilton, Weston, Norwalk and Staples, sometimes with only a day’s notice,” said Sedlak.  “Many of you have several kids in different practice groups and we understand, and appreciate, how complicated it was to make it to these practices, and to continuously alter your daily schedules.

“Your commitment, and their hard work, paid off repeatedly when the kids were able to continue to perform well at meets despite this major interruption in their training,” added Sedlak.  “We’d also like to thank the Wilton and Norwalk YMCAs, as well as Coach John Scaldini and Coach Ryan Lochner of the Weston Swim Team, for generously allowing us to utilize their facilities over the last month.”

Although we had to scramble to host our own Maura Marden Freestyle Frenzy at Wesleyan University in mid-November, the Water Rats really rose to the challenge, many securing best times despite the fact that some swim families were still without power.

A week later, despite some late practices at Staples and Wilton, many kids again bested their times, and some even qualified for Age Groups at the New Canaan Age Group Qualifier meet.

In addition, the Y’s Water Rat team had a great turnout for our 3rd Annual Turkey Burn, where Finn Johnston (6:45) and Alec Keblish (14:45) had the fastest runs and Danny Duffy (26:24-New Record!) and John McNab (48:12) the fastest overall times.

Head Coach Ellen Johnston motivates her Water Rats during a break in the competition.

On the first weekend of December, 12 Water Rats and Coach Ellen and chaperone David Blansfield traveled to the Nike Music City Invitational Swim Meet in Nashville, TN, where they joined nearly 1,100 swimmers for a three-day competition.

Our swimmers performed at high levels with many of them placing and achieving personal bests in several events, and they gained valuable experience for future high-level competitive meets. Moreover, they were excellent ambassadors for our Family Y and for our community.

Next up on the Water Rats’ busy short-course season schedule: On December 15-16 the younger age-group swimmers are excited to be going to the CAC Qualifier at Connecticut College in New London. This is going to be a fun “team trip,” one that includes a visit Saturday afternoon to the Submarine Force Museum and the USS Nautilus in Groton.

Best of luck going forward to all our swimmers, and congratulations for rising to the challenge — we’re all proud of your efforts!

Bryce Keblish leads off the Westport/Weston Family Y Water Rat Men's 400 Freestyle Relay team in competition at the 3-day Nike Music City Invitational at the Tracy Caulkins Competition Pool in Nashville.

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