Young swimmers ready to host invite
Mike Werner has an answer for the winter doldrums.
On Feb. 23-24, he is hosting a giant pool party, of sorts. He has plans for about 550 kids to converge on the Ecker Hill Aquatic Center for the Park City Winter Invitational, a swimming competition for age-group swim teams from all over the state.
"The pool is going to be absolutely perfect," said an excited Werner.
In fact, Werner hosts a bit of swimming party year-round. He is the head coach for the Park City Aquatic Team (PCAT), a swimming team that welcomes youth of all ages and abilities to enjoy the benefits of competitive swimming. Since Werner, a Summit County native, came on board a few years ago, the team has doubled in size. They have also quadrupled in the number of kids qualifying for state and regional competitions.
"We’re very young and very new, but the kids are coming along great," Werner said. "It’s everyone pushing each other and working together."
Werner is expecting teams from as far north as Logan and as far south as Cedar City and from a number of cities and towns in between at the invitational. There will even be a team from California attending the meet. The money collected from the participating teams will go to help run the PCAT program throughout the year.
The meet will feature a whopping 88 different races for kids ages 10 and under all the way up to high school-aged swimmers. This is the last big meet before the age-group state championships, so Werner says many teams want to get one last look at each other before the state finals.
The party isn’t limited to young swimmers. The event is free and Werner says that spectators will find the non-stop action and chaos of a youth meet quite entertaining.
"It’s going to seem a little big, but you’ll see it flows really well," Werner said.
In age-group swimming, kids are paired with other children who are of similar age and size.
"It’s designed for the kids to have a positive experience," Werner said.
The team meets five days a week, Monday through Friday, from 4:15-6 p.m. and combines stretching, lap swimming and dry land training for core strength, coordination and balance. The youth aren’t required to attend every practice, but Werner suggests that they are there at least three times a week to keep their skill and fitness levels consistent.
"We encourage the kids to come as often as they can," Werner said. "The more they come, the better they do."
While many members of the PCAT team are quickly swimming their way to the top of the state ranks, Werner says that the team is more about the sport of swimming than winning all of the time.
"What we want to do is to provide an opportunity for kids that want to swim," Werner said. "We have kids that just want to swim and exercise. There’s not a better sport."
At the same time, Werner hopes to continue the tradition of top-ranked swimming in the area. PCAT members feed directly into the area high school programs. Park City High School is one of the strongest teams in 3A high school competition, and Werner is happy to be a part of that tradition now. He also hopes to see the swimmers perform well locally as well as at sectional and zone competitions.
In that effort, Werner tries to take the team to out of town meets and encourages them to qualify for regional championship meets.
"It’s seeing competitive swimming when they are young," Werner said. "I want them to see what swimming can be about. Swimming is relatively young and new in Utah."
Last fall, they traveled to Boise, Idaho, to swim against teams from Idaho, Wyoming, Washington and Nevada and plan to make the trip again this year.
Swimming has certainly taken Werner places. Raised in Coalville, he did the typical basketball, football and track sports combo, but found his true athletic calling teaching swimming lessons at the Coalville community pool. Even though he was never part of the prep swim team, he focused his college studies at Weber State University on coaching and has been poolside ever since. Along for the ride are the PCAT assistant coaches, Amber Lynch and Serena Reynolds, who help Werner to keep the program strong and successful.
The Park City Winter Invitational will start on Friday at 5 p.m., and again on Saturday at 9 a.m. Werner said that competition typically lasts about three and a half to four hours so that the kids won’t lose focus. Every swimming style and distance, except the mile, will be swum. For more information on the meet or the PCAT program, please visit http://www.pcatswim.com.
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