Several of Cape Giardeau's Gator Swim team's future stars, along with a few present ones, will be in competition this weekend when the area swim team puts a close to another summer.
While a few Gator USA Swimmers are competing in Oklahoma this weekend after coming off a successful trip to Carbondale, Ill., for their first of two long course championship meets, much of the rest of the team is gearing up for the Southeast Missouri Swim Conference Summer League Championships in Jackson today.
The Gators feature about 100 members from all over Southeast Missouri, a far cry from the mere 20 or so Gator coach Jason Cravens started with when he took over three years ago.
"We've steadily progressed over the last few years," Cravens said.
A varied group
Included on the roster are up-and-coming swimmers ranging from athletes just entering grade school to local high school swimmers like Notre Dame sophomore Jameson Kuper, along with team leader Steffan Troxel of Jackson.
At the Ozark Championships in Carbondale, similar to a conference championship, the Gators put up several wins and numerous personal bests en route to a second-place team finish.
"That is the highest we've ever finished at the Ozark Championships," Cravens said.
Along with the success of the Gator USA squad, the other Gators have secured a perfect record in the Southeast Missouri Swim Conference going into the Summer League Championships this weekend.
The Southeast Missouri Swim Conference was formed three three years ago after local swimming teams broke away from a previous conference that included out-of-state teams. The conference had more than 600 swimmers this season ranging from age 4 to 18.
"We use the summer league as an introduction to swimming," conference commissioner Justin Medley said.
Many of the coaches in the league act as teachers as well as coaches.
"They teach the kids all the strokes," Medley said.
The Summer League Championships, which start at 9 a.m. today at Jackson City Park, will feature more than 400 local swimmers from 11 different teams. Jackson, Dexter, Farmington, Perryville, Ste. Genevieve, Poplar Bluff, Sikeston, Kennett, Charleston and Scott City will join the Gator swim team at the event.
The Gator summer league team features many year-round swimmers along with some who are only involved in the league itself.
"It's definitely more of a fun-filled environment to start," Cravens said.
Through the summer league meets many of the Gator swim team members work their way up to the Gator USA team.
"It's really where you'll find our younger kids getting experience," Cravens said. "That's sort of the introduction to it."
Team championship banners will be presented to the small-squad and large-squad champions, and event winners in five age groups for male and females will receive awards.
"We like the fact that all the kids swim at the championship meet," Medley said.
The sectional step
While the Gators fight for the summer league crown, they also will be represented at the Central Sectional Championships in Oklahoma City, Okla. Four Gators will make the trip to compete against some of the Midwest's best swimmers. Emily Younghouse, Kuper, Troxel and David Welker will be the Gators representatives.
Troxel and Kuper will compete in a variety of events, while Younghouse will be limited to the 800 and 1,500 free and Welker will compete in the 200 back and 1,500 free.
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