For members of the Sarasota Tsunami Youth Swim Team, victory doesn’t taste sweet.
It tastes like a piece of paper.
The team has a tradition involving their relay cards, a tradition that no one seems to recall the origin of. It doesn’t matter, it exists, and it goes like this: Before each relay, the swimmers involved in the race will tear off a tiny piece of the map showing them the order of the race, usually from the corner. They will then place it under the elastic of their bathing suit or, alternatively, they will eat it.
It doesn’t taste good. But who are the Tsunami to dispute the results of the ritual?
The team won its second consecutive Florida Age Group Swimming Championships, or FLAGS, which took place March 3-6 at the Tampa Bay Aquatic Club. This time it was the short course championships; in July, it was the long course championships. The two wins make it hard to argue for another club to be the best in the state this swimming season. These are also the first two FLAGS championships in the club’s history, which makes club coach Ira Klein beam with pride.
“It helps establish that we’re on par with the best teams in the state,” Klein said. “That’s why we’re proud to win. The club is here and it’s on its way.”
Klein started the club in 2010 with no swimmers signed up. At the time of the first training, there were three of them.
Now, 12 years later, the club is big enough – and talented enough – to win back-to-back FLAGS Championships. They do this while practicing at the Arlington Park pool, dividing their time with the public, and receiving no financial assistance from Sarasota County.
Klein said the club’s success is a testament to the fact that the organization’s assistant coaches gave their time and knowledge to the club as well as the swimmers for doing the work necessary for this level of success.
As for the swimmers themselves, the Tsunami feel that their victory is due to the support of their teammates. The team is tight-knit, they said, and the loud cheers they hear over the water during races motivate them to finish as fast as possible. The team can get so noisy that they are sometimes a problem; at FLAGS, the Tsunami was told by race officials that their cheer section was too big, so they had to call it back. In the end, it was still big enough to get the result they wanted.
The FLAGS group, which includes swimmers 14 and under, even got support from the club’s older swimmers, who came out on the final day and made personalized signs for their younger teammates.
“We have a lot of good fashionable people,” said 13-14-year-old girls swimmer Sofia Krajewski. “It helps us a lot. We couldn’t swim alone.”
These were the relays where the club took its greatest advantage, particularly the boys aged 13 to 14, who won the age group 200-yard medley relay, 800-yard freestyle relay, 200-yard freestyle, 400-yard medley relay and 400-yard freestyle relay. The club also finished in the top three in a number of other relays in different divisions, such as the Girls 13-14, who finished second in the 400 yard freestyle relay.
Full results can be found on Team Unify, but a few highlights: 13-14-year-old swimmer Taylor Schwenk won the 200-yard freestyle (1:51.66), the 50-yard backstroke (25.77), the 100 yard backstroke (55.93), and the 200 yard backstroke (2:04.21), and was second in the 50 yard butterfly (25.81) and 100 yard butterfly (56.82). Boys 10 and under swimmer Bradshaw Shoemaker won the 50-yard breaststroke (36.75) and 100-yard breaststroke (1:20.91). Boys 13-14 swimmer Bogdan Zverev won the 50-yard butterfly (23.65), 100-yard butterfly (52.02), 200-yard individual medley (1:53.85) and 200-yard butterfly ( 1:52.95).
“It’s hard to pick impressive performances,” said 13-14-year-old boys swimmer Cyrus Matteson. “I could name at least three of each person. Everyone stood up.”
Some of the Tsunami will drop out of upcoming FLAGS Championships, but those who will remain eligible, like 13-14-year-old swimmer Sofia Krajewski, said they don’t plan to give up the titles now that they have them.
“We’re coming into the summer and looking to keep building,” Klein said. “If you want competitive swimming to be a part of your child’s life, come join us.”
The Tsunami is not the only club in the region to have done well at FLAGS. The Sarasota Sharks finished second in the event, as they did at the long course FLAGS in July. Among other strong performances, 13-14-year-old swimmer Riley Leach was a standout for the Sharks, winning the 50-yard breaststroke (29.78), 100-yard breaststroke (1:04.35), 200-yard breaststroke ( 2:17.27), the 200-yard individual medley (2:04.39) and the 200-yard butterfly (2:02.94) and finished third in the 50-yard butterfly (26.04).
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