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Stephens swimmers see nationals as more than competition

Saturday, March 7, 2009 | 11:20 p.m. CST; updated 5:10 p.m. CDT, Sunday, March 8, 2009

ST.PETERS — For the Stephens College swim team, the 2009 Swimming and Diving National Championship was not all about winning.  Family and the thrill of competing held precedence over points and records.

Bright pink swim caps distinguished the Stephens Stars from the competition.  allowing their families to spot their sisters and daughters in the crowd of swimmers. When the families saw the identifying caps, they waved and cheered.

Emily Younghouse's father, Fred Younghouse, told his daughter to "mentally think of her stroke. If she does the stroke right everything else will come together."

These words and mental preparation method have been passed down through the Younghouse family. Younghouse's two brothers both competed for their college swim teams. Surprisingly, all three swimmers have had Laura Wacker as their coach.

"Laura has been a great coach to my children," says Fred Younghouse. Younghouse went on to say that Wacker not only prepares them for the trials of swimming, but also cares about the situations they may face in the real world.

Jenna Alander, another Stars swimmer, carefully placed her lucky towel on the block before each event in preparation to swim. The white towel is marked with the faded signatures of team members from Alander's past swimming experiences.  

Alander used the towel as a place saver in the stands. When her mother, Robin, noticed the towel, she looked for Jenna. Knowing how important the towel was to her daughter, she quickly dropped it over the railing to her.

While family for the swimmers is important, records were still set this weekend. The Stephens Stars set four new school records at the NAIA national championship, and their families couldn't have been more proud. A new record was set for the 500-yard freestyle, 800-yard freestyle relay, 400-yard medley relay, and the 200-yard freestyle events. 

"We had a lot of personal-best swims here. They have accomplished more than what they have all season," said Wacker.


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