Silverthorne Tsunami swim team begin season with mix of never-evers and veterans |

Silverthorne Tsunami swim team begin season with mix of never-evers and veterans

Phil Lindeman

Wanna be a Tsunami?

The fall Silverthorne Tsunamis swim team (October and November) is looking for new members. The team is limited to 36 swimmers and perfect for children from 5 to 14 years old with a basic understanding of strokes and breathing. All swim team members must be able to pass a swim test (25 yards freestyle, 25 yards backstroke, 15 yards each breaststroke and butterfly) with no assistance. Practice is held Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., split into hour-long early and late sessions.

If your child is interested, call the rec center at (970) 262-7370 or sign up online at

Head coach Carolyn Skowyra hardly had time to get her roster in order before swimmers started bombarding her with hugs and love and squees.

“Miss Carolyn, I’m here!” 9-year-old Izzy Rowe said with a huge, beaming smile. “What are we doing today?”

Coach Skowyra looked up from her swim team roster with an equally huge, beaming smile.

“Hi Izzy,” she said. “I’m busy right now, but get everyone together and I’ll be there soon. We have a lot of new kids today.”

Rowe nodded excitedly and pattered off to meet up with a few of her friends, all veterans of the Silverthorne Tsunami youth swim team. It was the first day of practice for the fall team and Coach Skowyra was busy digging through two binders overflowing with paperwork. She’s been head coach for the Tsunamis since 2013, when her sister, Meghan O’Hara, moved to Fraser near Winter Park and started coaching the local swim team there. As a lifelong swimmer, she knows how to run a serious practice built around intervals and yardage — she was a mid-distance freestyle swimmer at Division III Wellesley College in Massachusetts — but today is all about getting back into the groove after two months off.

“I really do love this,” said Skowyra, who also coaches the summer Tsunami team from April to July. “It is very fulfilling. It’s cool to watch them get better, or just to reach their goals. You really develop a relationship with the kids and they appreciate that from a coach.”

While Coach Skowyra finished organizing her binders — the fall team from October to November has about 30 kids, split between four sessions on Wednesday and Friday afternoons — a gaggle of swimmers led by Rowe stood under the umbrella at a plastic patio table near the lap lanes at the Silverthorne Recreation Center. The veterans were almost bursting with excitement, talking about their goals for the fall season and how they’ll smash their personal records from the summer season. Each one was dressed in a racing swimsuit — TYR and Speedo single-piece suits for the girls, knee-length “jammers” for the boys — and all wore black swim caps with the Silverthorne Tsunamis name and logo etched across the side.

“I like that I can come here after school and work hard,” said 10-year-old Hannah Crowe, who loves backstroke. “I’m pretty good with what I do at school, so it’s nice to have a challenge.”

Hannah’s sister, 8-year-old breaststroke swimmer Mary Grace, chimed in.

“I like that it’s good exercise and that I get to have fun at the same time,” she said. One of the few veteran boys on the team, 10-year-old Jacob Singleton, talked about enjoying butterfly and breaststroke — they look completely different but share similar hip movements — before laying out his goals: improve his individual medley time and work on 50-yard sprints. He’s a fifth grader this year, and fifth graders don’t swim the short 25-yard events anymore.

“I’m excited to see my coaches again and get back into shape,” said 12-year-old Kaelin Love, a breaststroke swimmer who just “really love(s) the water.”

Everyone yelled “Yeah!” in agreement. Before gathering around Coach Skowyra for the start of practice, 10-year-old Charlotte Hugnut summed up the team in a few simple words:

“I like everything,” the all-around swimmer said. “There’s not one thing in particular — I just like it all.”

First day back

Coach Skowyra comes from a competitive swimming background, but she says the Silverthorne Tsunami team isn’t made to be a high-stress, high-intensity program. It’s more about introducing young swimmers (ages 4 or 5 to 14 years old) to the fundamentals: strokes, breathing, starts, flip turns — everything they need for the next level.

“We’re not focused on competition and races,” Skowyra said. “We’re focused on goal setting, goal meeting and improvement more than being the swimmer that wins every time. It’s more about personal improvement, and kids get that from our program.”

The fall team is a perfect introduction to racing for youth, Skowyra said. Practices focus on the basics, with swimmers split into groups of no more than six between three lap lanes. The groups are organized by skill level: veterans in lane three, intermediates in lane two, never-evers in lane one. This helps the small coaching staff make the most of hour-long practices with an early group and late group.

At another patio table, two never-ever parents were filling out their own paperwork. Like their kids, the moms, Allison Simmons and Shannon Drogsvold, were anxious for the first day of practice.

“I said, ‘You’ve never done it, you’ve never swam laps. Are you sure you want to do this?’” said Simmons, who swam in college and has one son, Marcus, on the team. “And he just couldn’t wait.”

Drogsvold didn’t come from a swimming background, but her two children, Dax and Anna, recently learned to swim and wanted to try the team.

“I really hope they love it,” Drogsvold said. “We’ll see. My kids have never worn a swim cap, they’ve never been to practice, they’ve never been in a pool that long swimming laps — it’s new.”

First laps back

After explaining swimming basics — equipment like fins, pull-buoys and caps, plus how to circle swim with a team — Coach Skowyra gave the team an easy workout: warm-up, kick drill with kickboards, pull drill with pull buoys, and then sets with freestyle and swimmer’s choice.

“Fall is more about skill development,” said Skowyra, who noted that the fall team swims in just one meet against her sister’s team in Fraser, compared to four meets in the summer. “It’s always skill development, but now is when we’re perfecting the strokes and working on technique. Come summer, it’s a full-on swim team.”

The kids, veterans and newcomers alike, immediately started swimming. After 20 minutes, one of the never-evers stopped at the wall. He looked frigid: blue lips, hunched shoulders, near tears. Coach Skowyra went to him and soon had him on the pool deck doing high-knee exercises to warm up. A few minutes later, he joined the rest of the group in the water.

At the tables, a smattering of parents watched for a little longer before splitting off to make phone calls or start a quick workout. Before leaving, Simmons remembered her son’s last thought before entering the water.

“He says, ‘I wish there was a buffet after practice because I’m going to be starving.’”

The parents laughed and the kids kept swimming.

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