FULTON – Whitney Gorsegner has been swimming competitively since she was 6 years old. But now she finds herself in a T-shirt and shorts holding a stopwatch, outside of the pool Saturday at the Youth Swimming Championships in Fulton.
Gorsegner came to Columbia from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on a swimming scholarship to MU in 2007 as a sprint/short distance swimmer but decided to give up swimming after her freshman year. Shortly after, she found herself working at the Missouri Athletic Center and has become a coach for the swim club.
“It was time for me to stop swimming and start teaching, and I ended up in a great place getting to work with kids," Gorsegner said. “I’ve been swimming competitively for a long time. Everything that they’re going through, I went through, so I can relate to them.”
Gorsegner and other coaches gathered together poolside near the starting blocks on a hot and muggy Saturday, catching some shade provided by a tent decorated with pirates and sharks. The team is nicknamed "The Sharks," and the coaches illustrate this by wearing matching club T-shirts that say, “Humans trapped in a shark's body.”
“We probably have the coolest tent here,” Gorsegner said laughing.
The swim club has made it a habit to decorate its tent and come up with a theme each meet, including a Hawaiian theme and a 4th of July theme.
“It’s just for fun and it definitely makes it more fun for the kids to have a theme for each meet,” Gorsegner said.
The Youth Championships is the final meet of a five-week season that began in early June. It brings all the swim clubs together that compete against each other individually throughout the year for one final meet.
“You get to see all the improvement that has been made throughout the season,” Gorsegner said. “It’s fun to see the team come together and be able to compete against all the different clubs.”
Gorsegner and the Missouri Athletic Center swim club have been competing in weekly meets on Wednesday nights against other clubs around Columbia leading up to this final meet. Swimmers as young as six enjoy the competitive environment and are motivated at these meets in hopes of receiving a “personal best ribbon,” which they receive at Friday practice if they beat their previous best time in an event.
“They learn so much about themselves in these meets and what they can accomplish in the heat of the moment,” Gorsegner said.
“It’s fun to race other kids and compete and try and get a ribbon,” said 8-year-old Connor Jokerst.
Jokerst has been swimming with the Missouri Athletic Center swim club for three years. Other youths such as Daphnee Brown, 7, have also been swimming with the club for three years and have just recently started competing.
“She likes swimming and started out with just lessons, and they decided this year that she was ready to swim in meets,” said Daphnee’s mother, Marie Brown. "And I'm proud of her. She did really well."
For Gorsegner and the Missouri Athletic Center swim club, the swim meets concluded for the season Saturday, but practice and lessons will continue throughout the year both indoors and outdoors at the Missouri Athletic Center.
“Summertime is the only time we do competitions, but we are constantly teaching and trying to improve the kids year round.” Gorsegner said.
The Missouri Athletic Center was one of eight clubs competing at the youth swimming championships, all of which were from Columbia except the Fulton Fins swim club.