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Swimming a fun challenge

Youth-swimming meets help competitors build confidence
Sunday, June 24, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:22 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Micah Wright, 5, looks for the finish line while swimming in the 25-meter freestyle Saturday at Wilson’s Fitness Center in Columbia. The Missouri Athletic Center organizes a summer league with two ages groups that holds meets on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Micah and Madison Wright’s play time was cut short one afternoon this April. On his way to retrieve a baseball, Micah, 5, fell on rocks in the backyard landscaping at his home and broke his left arm.

“There were rocks around and he just tripped,” his mother Kelly Wright said. “It broke right above the elbow, so he had a cast up his arm.”

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The weather was beginning to get warm, which only increased his discomfort.

“Boy, that wasn’t fun,” Micah said.

While he would finish the last few weeks of his kindergarten year in a cast, something else was on his mind.

He had a full summer of swimming ahead of him.

This year, he joined his older sister in competitive swimming for the first time. But, with an arm to heal, his summer could have been spent on the sidelines. The cast came off in time for his first competitive swimming season.

Micah and Madison, 8, competed Saturday morning in a dual meet with the West Broadway swim team at the Missouri Athletic Center.

Micah competed in the 25-meter freestyle and Madison swam in the 25-meter freestyle, breaststroke, butterfly, backstroke, and medley. She also competed in the 100-meter individual medley, the 100-meter freestyle relay and the 35-meter butterfly.

The summer league, which runs mid-June through mid-July, features meets on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings. This summer, 115 swimmers are enrolled, competing in age groups from 6-and-younger to 11-and-older. Practices are held twice a week at the Wilson’s Total Fitness in Columbia, but swimmers are not required to be members of the club.

Even though Micah’s arm was healed, he was still nervous to re-enter the water.

“It was scary the first time, because I was afraid of the deep end,” he said.

But you couldn’t see any hesitation on Saturday.

Micah successfully swam in his two events. Then in another pool, he played in the water, splashed around with his friends and jumped off the diving board. The entire morning, a smile was glued to his face.

Wright’s father, Hartley Wright, said the experience has given his children a chance to have fun while improving their health. But he thinks they are gaining much more.

“It’s also about discipline,” he said. “They learn that you can enjoy something that takes work. Yeah, it may be hard to do, and sometimes if they haven’t practiced in a while I’ll encourage them to go again, but you can enjoy it at the same time.”

Saturday, Hartley Wright volunteered to help run the bull pen. He made sure the swimmers were in the right spot for the right event at the right time. And, now that Micah is one of the competitors entering the bull pen, swimming has become a family event for the Wrights.

“It’s something we can all do together now,” he said. “They get to compete and gain confidence in themselves, too. It’s a source beyond what we can provide to challenge them.”

His wife agrees. Kelly Wright said she can see her son’s confidence improving already.

“Twenty-five meters is a long way for a 5-year-old,” she said. “It’s something he wasn’t comfortable doing in the beginning, but he set his mind to it. It was a challenge for him, but he did it.”

Assistant coach and co-organizer of the meet, Amanda Morford, said she enjoys seeing the hard work pay off for her athletes. However, something else stands out in her mind after the competitions are finished.

“They are so excited,” she said. “They’ll come up and say, ‘Can we get our ribbons? Can we get our ribbons?’ They are so excited to place.”

The MAC team has three more competitions this summer, including the Show-Me Conference Championships on July 14. To qualify, athletes must have competed in two earlier meets.


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