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'It gets better every year': Phelps' influence popular among young Straehle athletes

HAMPSTEAD — Take a glimpse through a Straehle Invitational Championship Swim Meet heat sheet and one might notice the name of a familiar record-holder.

Michael Phelps, the Maryland native who has won more Olympic medals than anyone in history, still holds three Straehle meet records from his days at Meadowbrook in Baltimore.

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Phelps and his records are never far from the minds of young swimmers in the Central Maryland Swim League and that was even more the case this year given that the Summer Games begin next week. Many of the swimmers Wednesday were motivated by the chance to beat the Olympian's records.

Close to 900 swimmers from 48 teams in the CMSL showcased their talent in the Straehle Invitational on a dry, humid Wednesday at Four Seasons Sports Complex.

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"There was a growth when Michael first started going to the Olympics," said Tom Straehle, a CMSL board member. "There's been a growth in swimming year-round than there was 20 years ago and the caliber is probably the same as it was. Michael still holds records at the league record level, some swimmers before him still hold some. We had two children set records today. And in most cases, those swimmers swim in college — some like Michael are still swimming.

"We've had Olympic qualifiers for 30 years and kids who have gone to the Olympics. This is one of the largest swim leagues in the country and one of the largest in Maryland."

Seven of the 48 teams are based in Carroll — Carroll Aquatics Blue Sharks, Freedom Dolphins, North Carroll Sea Lions, Nottingham Marlins, South Carroll Swim Team, Westminster Riding Club and Westminster Swim Team.

There were multiple divisions in the league when it was founded in the 1970s and each division had an individual championship meet. Straehle's parents, Betty and Bill, played a large role in the league's creation and the Invitational was named in honor of Bill Straehle in 1991, a year after he died.

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Four Seasons has hosted the Straehle for 11 years and it's designed for the top swimmers in the CMSL to compete against one another. It also provides athletes with an opportunity to interact with other athletes they don't see on a regular basis.

Matthew McGoey, an 18-year-old South Carroll Swim Team member, qualified for the Straehle after he won all five of his events at the Carroll County Invitational last week. On Wednesday, he took first place in the three individual events he entered — the 100-meter intramural, the 50-meter backstroke and the 50-meter breaststroke.

"The Carroll invitational is definitely always fun," McGoey said. "Sometimes there's not as many people, but here [at the Straehle] you can always expect really fast swimmers, so there's a lot more swimmers and a lot more teams. It makes it all more exciting every time I come here, there's always new people and new challenges that push me to go faster as a result of that.

"Everyone swims generally pretty fast here, so I don't look at it as a high-pressure meet, I look at it as a big championship meet where everyone comes together and has fun."

McGoey swims year-round and admitted that waking up for 5 a.m. practices in the summer is not easy, but it's the competition that continues to drive him.

He plans to attend Bucknell on a swimming scholarship in the fall.

"I try to have fun with it," McGoey said. "Today, I went to practice not really thinking I would go easy because I have the Straehle today. I still went as hard as I could and definitely practiced starts and turns to get myself in the mindset of swimming faster. When I come to the meets I don't think too much about whether I trained enough or not, I do what I can in practice as well as I can and that's all I can really do."

Addison Powers of the Freedom Dolphins won three 8-under events, the 25-meter freestyle, the 25-meter backstroke and the 25-meter butterfly. The Serpents of South Carroll took first place in the boys 13-14 200 meter freestyle relay in 1:51.77, beating last year's winning time of 1:52.77 by a full second.

Mia Mesceda, a 13-year-old who swims for South Carroll, said she likes to compare her previous times to her new times even when people tell her not to. She won two of her three individual events Wednesday, the 100-meter intramural and the 50-meter breaststroke.

While no one touched Phelps' marks, the competitors seemed satisfied after yet another Straehle was in the books.

"Honestly, it gets better every year," Mesceda said. "It's amazing to see how excited everyone is and how people will stick around to watch the races at a hot, tiring meet and watch everyone else cheer for each other. We have amazing coaches that bring us all together and they work so well with us, it's amazing. We're a big family."

BOYS CARROLL WINNERS

15-over 100 IM: Matthew McGoey, South Carroll (59.69).

13-14 100 IM: Luke Isayiw, South Carroll (1:05.22).

11-12 50 back: Chris Tomsuden, South Carroll (32.71).

15-over 50 back: Matthew McGoey, South Carroll (28.14).

15-over 50 breast: Matthew McGoey, South Carroll (31.10).

13-14 200 free relay: South Carroll Swim Club (1:51.77).

GIRLS CARROLL WINNERS

13-14 100 IM: Mia Mesceda, South Carroll (1:10.42).

8-under 25 free: Addison Powers, Freedom (16.89).

8-under 25 back: Addison Powers, Freedom (20:54).

8-under 25 butterfly: Addison Powers, Freedom (18.38).

13-14 50 breast: Mia Mesceda, South Carroll (35.24).

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