With the 2012 Olympic Games under way, young swimmers across the nation have been fixated on their television sets while American phenoms Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte battle it out in the London Aquatics Centre.
Some of the best high school swimmers still in the States will also get a chance to showcase their talents during the USA Swimming Senior Central Zone Championships, today through Sunday in the Lawrence Indoor Aquatic Center at Free State High School.
The city of Lawrence and the Lawrence Aquahawks swim team will co-host the central zone championships, which will feature swimmers from 13 different states and more than 30 different teams. The participants might not be the future stars of the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro — those potential qualifiers swim a tier or two above at senior and junior nationals — but meet director Ed Sloan still expects plenty of high-level competition.
“All of these swimmers have the potential to swim in college at some level,” Sloan said. “It may not be (NCAA Division I), but at some level, if that is what they choose to pursue.”
One of the Lawrence-area swimmers will be Sloan’s son, Free State High senior Ben Sloan, who will compete as a member of the Aquahawks.
“It’s really cool that our town got chosen — and our pool — for this meet,” Ben said. “It’s a pretty big deal, and I’m excited to swim in it and be able to represent the Aquahawks.”
Aquahawks coach and Kansas University alumnus Justin Clossen said that Sloan would be one of six or seven members of the Lawrence team who would be competing in the central zone championships — all of the swimmers must hit qualifying times to be entered.
Clossen has 11 years of coaching experience but just took over as head coach of the Aquahawks in April. Clossen acknowledged there were numerous people and sponsors who made it possible to hold the meet in Lawrence, but he specifically credited Lawrence Indoor Aquatic Center manager Jimmy Gibbs and his staff for making the venue worthy of hosting the competition.
“They’ve hosted four meets in five weeks,” Clossen said. “So for them to get the pool ready and get the staff ready and all that kind of stuff, Jimmy (Gibbs), Lori (Madaus) and Becky (Childers) go above and beyond. I was not around when the pool was built, but they built — in swim coaches’ terms — they built a fantastic tank.”
Swimmers will have two hours to warm up before preliminaries start at 9 a.m. each day. Warm-ups for finals will begin at 4 p.m. and then the final heats will begin at 5:30 p.m.
The central zone championships are open to the public, and spectators may purchase a one-session pass for $5 or an all-session pass for $25.