Kaarin Quaerna (left), 16, who qualified for a YMCA National Meet in Georgia, is seen with the Lake Geneva YMCA’s head swim coach Amber Johnson.

Programs growing at Lake Geneva facility

A member of the Geneva Lakes Y youth swim team competed in the YMCA National Long Course Championship in Atlanta, Ga., on July 30.

Kaarin Quaerna, 16, competed in the 50-, 100- and 200-meter freestyle events and the 100-meter butterfly time trial. The meet was at the Georgia Institute of Technology Aquatics Center – the site of the 1996 Olympics.

Just qualifying for this meet is an accomplishment in itself, as it’s an elite-level event where only the country’s fastest swimmers gather to compete for the title of national champion, said YMCA head swim coach Amber Johnson. This was Quaerna’s first trip to the national meet, and her performance was incredibly impressive, Johnson said.

Coming into the 50-meter freestyle, Quaerna was seeded 115th out of 206 swimmers. She dropped nearly a second off her best time in prelims and qualified for finals in the evening, ultimately placing 30th overall. In her 100-meter freestyle, Quaerna dropped three seconds off her best time and just missed qualifying for finals by a few tenths of a second. She ended up placing 37th out of 194 12- to 18-year-old swimmers. Quaerna’s 200-meter freestyle and 100-meter butterfly performances were equally impressive, Johnson said. She dropped a whopping five seconds off her freestyle time, and achieved her best time and a qualifying cut for the spring national meet in her butterfly, Johnson said.

“Kaarin swam crazy-fast at the meet,” Johnson said.  “It was really exciting to see her do so well. Her dedication and all the hours she put in training this summer really paid off. She and I are already looking forward to the national meet next spring, and we hope to bring other teammates along.”

Johnson, who joined the Lake Geneva YMCA as its head swim coach in April, said she was impressed with the way YMCA ran the national-level meet. Each day the meet would begin with a prayer and a story from one of the Y teams about how Y swimming has influenced their lives, followed by the National anthem.

“The volunteers, coaching staff and swimmers truly upheld the principles that go along with YMCA swimming,” Johnson said. “Seeing swimmers and teams realize that swimming is more than just about swimming fast and dropping times, especially at this level, was a special moment, and I’m glad GYST (Geneva Lakes Y youth swim team) could take part in that.”


About the program

More than 50 swimmers from 6 to more than 60 years old train for competitive swimming at the Lake Geneva YMCA between 5:30 and 8:30 a.m. every morning in the summer. They make up the youth and master’s swim teams, both of which are finishing their summer 2013 seasons.

Johnson said the teams have grown since the spring. Nearly 20 new young people and adults joined the sport of competitive swimming at the Y this summer. Swimmers who have never been on a swim team before learned all four strokes and many started competing in meets, Johnson said.

“When I first started at the Y in April, we had 15 swimmers on our youth team. In just three months, we’ve grown to 30 swimmers, and I anticipate that number to increase during our fall and winter seasons,” she said. “It’s my goal to grow this program, support all of my swimmers to be their best, and make this a fun, positive team sport for everyone.

“If the kids are having fun, they’re more likely to swim fast and stick with the sport, and developing fast swimmers who can excel at the state, regional and national level is high on my priority list.”

Johnson said she also plans to grow the master’s team and have a line-up of meets available for those who want to compete.

She said the youth and master’s teams have a family atmosphere about them – all the swimmers know one another by name and enjoy team-building activities on special practice days.

“With GYST, it’s been really cool to see older swimmers cheering for younger swimmers at meets and younger swimmers cheering for the older ones. You don’t always see that with swim teams,” Johnson said.  “We are truly a team, and it shows in practices, in meets, and outside of the pool.”

Johnson said she is also working on developing and refining the stroke technique of each swimmer and building his or her strength, endurance and self-confidence.

Everyone who competed with the youth swim team this summer achieved one or more best times and had the opportunity to compete and succeed in events that they had never before been encouraged to try, Johnson said.


Community involvement

The Y master’s team participated in the Swim for Freedom charity event – an eight-mile swim across Lake Geneva to support the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. The charity supports children who have lost a parent in combat.

Youth swimmers and their parents will operate a funnel cake booth at Venetian Fest this week.



The youth swim team is gearing up for its fall swim season, which will kick off Sept. 16 with a free two-week community trial session to give area kids the opportunity to learn what swim team is all about.

Skill evaluations will take place on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays during those two weeks to place swimmers in the appropriate team levels. Swimmers 12 years old and older will be evaluated from 4 to 5 p.m., and evaluations for 11-year-olds and younger will take place from 5 to 5:45 p.m.

An informational meeting for parents will be Sept. 27. Regular season practice begins Sept. 30. The trial session and evaluations are free. The YMCA offers financial assistance for qualifying program participants.

Fall practice schedules and information about how to join the Y’s youth or master’s teams are available online at www.lakegenevaymca.com or by calling the Geneva Lakes Family YMCA at 248-6211.




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