Truckee Tahoe Swim Team sends 24 to Junior Olympics

Special to the Sun
Courtesy photo
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Truckee Tahoe Swim Team members returned home after an incredible showing at the 14 & Under Sierra Nevada Short Course (25 yard) Junior Olympics from March 8-10 in Fairfield.   

A testament to to the growth and depth of the team and coaching staff, TTST sent its largest contingent in recent history, with 24 swimmers.

Compared to most of their competitors, the TTST swimmers, who train indoors, do not have a lot of experience swimming outdoors, which was required at this meet. High winds experienced at times did not deter 10-year-old Rebecca Waterson from winning seven individual medals in this trials and finals format meet.  

Capping off Waterson’s weekend was an exciting 50-yard butterfly final where her AAAA time of 30.48 was just off of the JO record. She also contributed to TTST winning a third and fourth place in 10 & Under relays. Next up for Waterson is a trip in April to the Far Western Invitational in Morgan Hill.

Also coming home with a couple of wins was 8-year-old Jace Hoffman. Hoffman not only landed his year-long goal of swimming in his first JO’s, but also made two exciting come-from-behind swims to win both the 25 and 50 boys breaststroke events. Hoffman also swam seven events in the meet and brought home a chest full of medals for all, plus five new AAAA and AAA times.  

The TTST 8 & Under swimmers really showed their mettle at this meet. All swam in the Junior Olympics for the first time and also competed in the 200 free and 200 IM relays.  

One of TTST’s youngest competitors, 6-year-old Reese Hoffman, swam in seven individual events with a meet highlight of dropping 3.5 seconds off her 100 IM. Tatum Akers, also 6, swam two events including a personal best in 25 backstroke. Seven-year-old Julia Smith competed in six events and swam personal bests in all. She also came home with a new A time for all her hard work in her 50 backstroke.  

Alexson Thayer, 8, swam five events with many great times, including a 4.5-second improvement in her 50 breaststroke. Clara Castellar, 8, had a great experience swimming four events.

Moving up an age group to 9 & 10 year olds, TTST had a strong showing, starting with 9-year-old Gabriel Smith. Smith swam five events in his first JO’s and brought home not only best times in all, but also a seventh-place medal in the 100 backstroke. Smith was seeded 12 in the prelim event and made it to 10th place, and then in the finals dropped more time to grab seventh place.  

For the girls, 9-year-olds Emma Purdy and Caitlin Smith both competed in seven events and brought home eighth-place medals in addition both swimming in 10 & under relays. Purdy, battling a foot injury, earned her medal in 50 backstroke, and will also be competing in the Far Westerns in April. Caitlin Smith was seeded 10th going into the finals and raced to a best time to move up two spots for her medal.

Another 9-year-old, JO veteran Annika Thayer, made her fourth appearance and celebrated her mom’s birthday with a 10.5-second drop in the grueling 500 freestyle. Annsley Akers, 10, splits her time between swimming and ski racing, but still managed to swim three events before dashing off for a ski race. Hana Mazur, 10, swam two events in her first JOs, 100 breaststroke and 100 IM.

Rounding out this strong field of 9- and 10-year-olds was Courtney Engberg, 10. After only swimming competitively for four months, Engberg qualified in four events and charged to the finals in the 50 backstroke, where she went from being seeded 20th in the prelims to bringing home a 10th-place medal in the finals.

Kate Rye led the 11-12-year-old contingent with two sixth-place finishes in the 50 & 100 freestyle. Rye,12, achieved two goals in the meet: qualifying for Far Westerns and breaking the 1-minute mark in the 100 free. She competed in seven individual events and four relays with many best times.  

Also 12, Anna Kates swam in three breaststroke events and earned best times in all. She also contributed to the four relays. Ditto for 12-year-old Grace Bronstone, who made her first JO appearance and said, “It was one of the best weekends of my entire life.”

Allison Lockard and Hunter Hoffman, both 11, also swam. Qualifying in seven and four events, respectively, is a huge accomplishment for swimmers on their odd-year birthdays. Sean Percin also qualified in this age group but did not attend the meet due to illness.

Our oldest athletes served as wonderful role models throughout the meet for the younger swimmers. Fourteen-year-old Ingrid Suter swam to best times in her five events and brought home sixth- and 10th-place medals in the 100 and 200 breaststroke. Suter also achieved a new A time in the 200 IM.  

Niki Kates, 14, competed in seven events and had best times in the 200 & 50 free and the 200 IM. Cooper deRyk and Gavin Olsen, both 13, competed in the 50, 100, and 200 freestyle. deRyk swam best times including an alternate spot for the finals in 50 free. Olsen also swam best times and broke a personal goal to swim the 100 free under a minute.

Coaches Debbie Meyer, Betsy Redmond and Michelle Johnson attended the meet and were happy with the dedication the swimmers put in to qualify, and even happier with results that exceeded expectations.  

The Truckee Tahoe Swim Team offers training and practice groups for swimmers of all ages and ability levels. Find more info at

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