Tarpons Ready For State

Tarpons ready to make a splash at state

March 6, 2014    By Al Balderas The Montana Standard

The Butte Tarpons are headed upstream.

This group of youthful swimmers, based out of the Butte Family YMCA, will spend the weekend at the University of Montana, where it will compete at the short course state championships.

Will the Tarpons come back with a team championship? Not likely. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t success to be found.

Twelve swimmers will represent the Tarpons, a tiny number when compared to the contingencies that will be swimming for teams from Bozeman, Billings and Missoula. There will be about 400 competitors trying to make the biggest splash at the event this weekend.

The Tarpons will hit the water intent on beating the competition in their respective events. With only 12 swimmers, the Tarpons aren’t likely to put a dent in the team standings for the three-day event.

“Winning individual races are what we’re looking at,” said coach Susan Huckeby. “It’s all about the race against the clock.”

The proverbial carrot that will be dangling in front of the noses of the Tarpon swimmers, including 14-year-old Elsie Dickerson and 12-year-old Grant Robins, are the medals that will be awarded to the top seven finishers in each event. Those who finish in eighth through 14th place will get ribbons.

“I’m nervous,” Robins said Wednesday night at practice. “I don’t really know what to expect because I’ve never been to anything like this before. But you just have to be the fastest that you can be. Once I get wet, I zone everything else out and focus on my swimming.”

Dickerson has been to the state championships before and knows what to expect. She was quick to point out the obvious while warning of the pitfalls that come with being in such a big meet. “There are a lot of people and a lot of fast swimmers,” she said. “Don’t miss your race because they won’t wait for you.”

That shouldn’t be a problem for the Tarpons. Many of Butte’s youth have been swimming in the program for a few years and one of the first things they are taught is to listen.

Huckeby and Missoula’s Emily Hallgrimson have devoted countless hours to the young swimmers, teaching them the methods and moves needed to excel in their respective events. That, Huckeby says, is why listening is so important. “It’s the little things,” she said as the keys to getting better. “How to listen is important because once they listen, they can do better.”

Two of the Tarpons’ prized listeners and swimmers are Teyla Williams and Xana Skocilich. The two 8 year olds joined the program about seven months ago and have since qualified to compete in Missoula this weekend. Skocilich and Williams will compete in the girls’ 8-and-under 25-yard backstroke and the 50-yard backstroke.

Swimming at events like these and continuing to be involved in programs like the Butte Tarpons can open the door to endless possibilities. Gold medal winners Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin got their starts at programs similar to the Tarpons.

While it might be too early to tell if Olympic gold will one day come out of the Butte Family YMCA’s pool, it’s evident that the Tarpons are a team headed in the right direction.

Tarpons swimmers

Taylor Bushman, 8; Elsie Dickerson, 14; Baylee Furthmyre, 10; Kallie Hossack 10; Camille Kautzman, 8; Margaret LaFave, 12; Xana Skocilich 8, Aubrey Tuss, 10, Kaylee Tuss, 8; Teyla Williams 8; Josiah Dunham 14; and Grant Robbins, 12.