Uncharted waters for local swimmer | AspenTimes.com

Uncharted waters for local swimmer

Jon Maletz

Aspen Speedos swimmer Kelcie Gerson smiles before the start of the 50-yard backstroke Friday at the state championships in Fort Collins. (Courtesy Mike Polakowski)

Aspen’s Kelcie Gerson powered with outstretched fingertips to the wall in Friday’s 50-yard backstroke at the state swimming championship in Fort Collins.At that moment, Speedos coach Marc Teichman clicked his stopwatch. Then both waited intently for the results to flash across the scoreboard. It remained blank for what felt like an eternity.”I was nervous I wasn’t going to make it,” Gerson said Tuesday.There was a great deal at stake as his pupil and her family waited for the results for close to an hour. In order for Gerson to earn a trip to the Western Zone Swimming Championship in Fresno, Calif., Aug. 8-12, she had to post a zone qualifying time less than 39.59 seconds and finish in the top three out of 35 competitors. Teichman’s watch recorded a time under the qualifying mark, but Gerson’s fate rested in the hands of two manual timers, not his.

Gerson went on to compete in the 100-yard fly – her second of seven events during the weekend. Still, her first time had yet to be released. While Teichman was busy preparing Gerson for the 200-yard freestyle, Gerson’s father delivered some much-anticipated news: Gerson had finished third and posted a personal best 39.15 seconds, assuring herself a trip to California as a member of Team Colorado. Gerson is the first Speedos swimmer to accomplish such a feat. The 10-year-old embraced her father.”What a great moment,” Teichman remembered. “The stress was off. I knew she was going to do great, and luckily it all came together. The 50 back was her best shot. We wanted to make it count.”As it turned out, Gerson missed the pad on the pool wall that triggers an automatic timer. Her swim was recorded by two manual timekeepers assigned to her lane. They confirmed what Teichman had suspected all along: In a tightly-packed field just two seconds separated fourth and 14th places Gerson swam fast and stood tall.

“This is such a great accomplishment for Kelcie,” Teichman said. “She really nailed it.”Gerson was near the top of the leaderboard once more in the 100-yard backstroke, finishing fifth. Her time of 1:23.88 was less than four seconds off the pace set by the second-place finisher. She took 15th place in the 200-yard individual medley, shaving nearly six seconds off her previous best time. She recorded top-20 results in both the 100-yard (16th) and 200-yard (18th) freestyle.Gerson and teammate Claire Collier, despite being in different heats, finished 26th and 27th, respectively, in the 100-yard butterfly. They swam in the same heat in the 50-yard butterfly; Collier (40.45) was 21st in her first trip to states, and Gerson (41.54) took 28th.Fellow Speedos teammate Max Bryant posted a personal best of 43.56 in the 50-yard backstroke en route to a 23rd-place finish.”States can be intimidating,” Teichman said. “We brought three kids, while other teams have 40 to 50 kids. They handled it well.

“They got the chance to see some dedicated teams and swimmers compete at a real high level. I hope they saw the possibilities that are out there.” Teichman has been impressed with Gerson’s dramatic improvement. Since April 2004, Gerson has dropped 11 seconds off her time in the 50-yard backstroke alone, and she has earned her place among the state’s elite young swimmers. Success didn’t happen by chance, Teichman said. Instead, the combination of hard work, dedication and success is producing tangible results. And while he won’t be going to California, or have Gerson listen to White Zombie on his iPod for pre-race motivation like he did in Fort Collins, Teichman will be rooting loudly for his young swimmer.”I know she has high expectations, so I use those to motivate her and keep her on track,” said Teichman, who will work with Gerson until she leaves early next week. “Zones will expose her to a whole other level. “I know she’ll get in and do her very best. That makes me the happiest guy around.” Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com