Vashon Seals swimmers rack up gold and silver race times

— Tom Gross Shader is a swim team parent.

Ahhh, the weather finally broke open the weekend of June 12 — it was sunny, sunny, sunny.

While Islanders toiled in their gardens under a cloudless sky, or lay shackled to a hammock with one of their Stieg Larsson novels, many swim team parents enjoyed the confines of the hermetically sealed Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center.

It is an impressive structure. Built in the 1980s for the Good Will Games, it’s seen its share of champions, including Michael Phelps.

But while the 12-and-under swimmers were excited to compete in such an outstanding facility, several adults grumbled at the injustice of being inside on such a magnificent weekend.

In the spirit of full disclosure, a significant amount of that grumbling came from me.

I didn’t come to realize just how out of joint my attitude was until I woke my 10-year-old up at 6:15 in the morning — for the second straight day. He popped right up and out of bed, no complaints, no grumbles.

That’s when I began to realize: It’s the kids’ weekend, too. As one more enlightened parent put it: “This sport demands a lot of these kids — and they respond.”

Yes, they do. This was a qualifying meet, which means that only swimmers that have swum a silver time competed.

The Vashon Island Seals sent 29 swimmers, the seventh-most of 21 participating teams.

So there they were, both Saturday and Sunday, ready for warm-ups at 8 a.m. While I was still likening myself to a detainee at Guantanamo, these young athletes were busy with their breast strokes, butterflies, back strokes and free styles.

Even though the competition was stiffer at a qualifying meet like this, every 12-and-under swimmer showed improvement.

Lucas MacLeod, 9, swam three new events — the 50- and 200-meter free style and the 50-meter backstroke. Emily Milbrath, 10, improved her race times in five of her eight events.

If we ever go off of the gold standard, it will be a disappointment to Maia Cunningham. This 10-year-old swam gold times in each of her eight events, matching or improving her times in each event.

But the standout that caught this spectator’s eye was Connor van Egmond, 9, who swam four gold times and dropped a total of 29 seconds in five events.

It all sounds like a matter of stopwatches and fractions of seconds. Race times are benchmarks worthy of cheers, but there seems to be a story line that runs deeper. Learn a lesson from the 12-and-unders about self-discipline, commitment and a healthy sense of play. When you know where to look, even for a curmudgeon like me, there’s plenty of sunshine inside an aquatic center.

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