LAKEWOOD RANCH — When Michael McKeithen jumped into the pool at the Lakewood Ranch Athletic Center two years ago, the then 8-year-old had little knowledge of the different strokes, especially the butterfly.
But within a year, the Center Montessori School fifth-grader perfected his stroke, advancing two levels and developing into one of the Lakewood Ranch Swim Association’s top swimmers.
Now, the 10-year-old is gearing up for the biggest meet of his young career after making Junior Olympic times in the 50-, 100- and 200-meter freestyles and the 50-meter butterfly. McKeithen, along with five of his teammates, will represent the Lightning at the Florida Swimming 2010 Long Course Junior Olympic Championships July 15-18 in Orlando.
McKeithen advanced to the Junior Olympic Championships as part of a relay team, but this is the first time he’ll be competing as an individual.
“It’s just really exciting because you get to meet new people and see old friends,” McKeithen said. “I just want to go out there and have fun. It doesn’t matter how you do or what time you get. I’m not trying to push myself. I just want to do my best.”
Joining McKeithen at the meet will be 10-year-old Quinn Lynch (50 and 100 breaststroke), 12-year-old Monroe Hulbert (50 breaststroke), 12-year-old Madison Jean (50 butterfly), 12-year-old Luke Hanner, who has Junior Olympic times in all 12 events but can only swim six at the meet (50, 100, 200 and 400 freestyle and 50 and 100 butterfly) and 13-year-old Luke Morris (200 backstroke).
“It’s exciting because you just know you got in and it’s hard to get in,” Hulbert, who swam in last year’s championships, said. “It’s your own event, and you don’t have to swim with other people.”
Lakewood Ranch Swim Association coach Mike Johnson agreed.
“It’s like a crowning achievement for a whole season’s worth of work,” Johnson said. “The ones who are committed are the ones who make it. It’s their reward for a lot of hard work.
“It’s a very high level meet,” he added. “We have one of the fastest local swimming committees in the country, so everyone that gets there deserves it.”
The Lakewood Ranch Swim Association was founded in 2004 strictly as a summer team. Shortly thereafter, the Lightning, which comprises swimmers ages 5-18, became a year-round United States Swimming program.
Today, the Lakewood Ranch Swim Association is home to about 50 swimmers although the team tends to grow when school begins and tapers off somewhat in the summer. All swimmers wishing to join the team must go through a tryout and evaluation process. Swimmers are then divided into levels based on age and skill level.
For more information on the Lakewood Ranch Swim Association, visit the organization’s website at www.lrsalightning.org.
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].
WaveRunners send three to Junior Olympics
Three members of the Lakewood Ranch YMCA WaveRunners swim team qualified for the Florida Swimming 2010 Long Course Junior Olympic Championships.
Those qualifying for the WaveRunners are John Chaires (50-meter freestyle), Kevin Berkenbusch (50 freestyle) and Emma Stock (50 freestyle and 50 breaststroke).