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Swimming: Rain delays can't dampen spirits of junior championship meet swimmers

Swimmers and attendees at the Carroll County Junior Championship Swim Meet have come to expect rain delays, so Thursday's storms provided a feeling of deja vu but nothing the young athletes couldn't handle.

The camaraderie at Westminster Riding Club was infectious as local swimmers fought through another year of inclement weather to compete in the meet designed for athletes who did not qualify for Wednesday's Straehle Invitational.

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"We swim pretty much through anything except thunder," Kara Emore, the club manager of Westminster Riding Club said. "Most of the kids have pretty much swam at one point in time at a meet where we've had thunder and lightning delays. You know, they're programmed to get in and just go and do their best so for the older kids it might impact them more but for the younger kids, they're just excited to be here."

Emore said the junior championship meet is "a really great novice meet" where first through third place medals are awarded — something uncommon at Olympic-esque meets. Swimmers are given participation ribbons as well and it alleviates the heightened intensity provided at the Straehle.

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Westminster Riding Club has hosted the junior championship meet for at least 10 years. It was originally known as the Carroll County Novice Meet but was changed to the Junior Championship Meet about seven years ago.

Swimmers compete in five dual meets in an attempt to qualify for the Straehle and Emore said the athletes will usually practice just two weeks to prepare themselves. Straehle times have gotten faster each year and in turn, have made it harder for kids to qualify.

"This meet is great because it builds confidence," Emore said. "Especially for the kids that are just coming in, it's a great way to reap the rewards for all your hard work so I hope it continues for many, many years. This year we had over 60 plus more than last year, so it's growing."

The meet was delayed 30 minutes from its original 4 p.m. start time because of thunder, but things began to flow smoothly, occasionally during a light rain, once it started.

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Joseph Benedictus, a 13-year-old swimmer for WRC, took first place in two of the three events he entered before another 30-minute thunder delay held up further competition.

It was Benedictus' first junior championship meet and he said he enjoyed the short break brought on by the delay.

"It changes a little bit," Benedictus said. "I've swam in the pouring rain before so this is not a big difference."

Swimming on home turf was also a plus for the East Middle School student. Benedictus and his sister, Kateri, both competed in Thursday's meet to compete at the best of their abilities.

"It makes me feel better," Benedictus said. "I know the walls, the place and it makes me feel more comfortable."

One young swimmer with "Eat my bubbles" written across his bare back in black marker played with friends as the announcer reported the start of another event.

Another swimmer had "Super Girl" colored in green ink on her left bicep as she made her way to the pool.

Designing their bodies with creative sayings and colorful patterns seemed to diminish any swimmers' negative thoughts about the overhanging storm clouds.

"It gives them a break," Stephanie McCown, coach of Westminster Swim Club Stingrays said. "We lose some kids when it happens but it happens every year and most people come to expect it so it becomes a fun way to just hang out. The coaches are all hanging out and the kids will make a run to Shoppers to get doughnuts and come back covered in frosting and sprinkles."

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twitter.com/mwoodwardCCT

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