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Vashon Seals open ‘long season’ in style | Swimming

The “long season.”

Parents of the Vashon Seals, the Island swim team, might prefer a more upbeat name for the summer swim season.

Adults tend to take a more historical view: the Long March (Gandhi), the Long Death (Trail of Tears), et cetera — you get the idea. But the Seals’ long course season actually signifies the switch from races measured in yards (the short season) to meters.

The long course season opened May 15 with the Port Orchard Team Classic. Many 12-year-old and under swimmers had never swam these distances, or at the very least hadn’t since the end of last summer.

After a winter of disciplined workouts, this set the stage for some marked improvements in their long course swim times, in events like the 200-meter freestyle or the 50-meter butterfly.

Two hundred meters — that’s roughly the distance from, say, Bob’s Bakery to Movie Magic.

The next time you walk this route, imagine Jeremiah Bogaard — 8 years old — swimming that distance, and swimming it hard. Bogaard, along with his sister Liesl, had a tremendous meet, earning silver race times in seven events.

Another 8-year-old creating his own wake was Elijah Dougher. Keep your eye on this guy.

Meets like this can be filled with “firsts.” The team cheered Oscar Lewis on to his first silver time in the 50-meter freestyle.

And then there are the Cunningham cousins — Hannah is 12 and Maia is 10. Each girl earned seven gold times out of eight events, placing either second or third overall in six events.

But the real treats offered by the 12-and-under swimmers don’t necessarily register in the time sheets. You catch these gems when a dripping wet swimmer returns, panting from a race, and plops right down on a proud parent’s previously dry lap. Kids don’t sit on your lap forever.

Or witness the scrum of young swimmers crouched together at one end of the pool, threatening fans’ eardrums as they cheer on a teammate. Eavesdrop on a coach congratulating, encouraging and reminding swimmers to “try hard and have fun.”

This is healthy and rewarding stuff — ask any swimmer or parent. If this is what the long season offers, then let it last a long, long time.

— Tom Gross-Shader is the father of swimmer Max Gross-Shader.

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