Little fish in big pond |

Little fish in big pond

Jon Maletz
Aspen Speedos swimmer Kelcie Gerson, right, poses with her coach Nancy Richey during last week's Western Zone Swimming Championship in Fresno, Calif. (courtesy Elaine Gerson)

Before the start of the summer season, Aspen Speedos coach Marc Teichman had his young swimmers write out their goals. For 10-year-old Kelcie Gerson, the objective was clear.”I wanted to make Zones,” Gerson said Tuesday.She did just that last week when she stood in the starting blocks at the Central Unified Aquatics Complex in Fresno, Calif. Gerson, competing in the Western Zone Swimming Championships against a field of the Western United States’ promising young swimmers, took to the pool for five events.Just two weeks earlier, Gerson finished third in the 50-yard backstroke at the state meet, assuring herself a trip to California as a member of Team Colorado. She became the first Aspen swimmer to accomplish the feat.

Despite Fresno’s grand stage and fierce competition, Gerson stood tall, posting three top-30 finishes and shaving seconds off her personal best in one discipline. Her strongest result of the week – 21st – came in the 50-backstroke.”Not that 10-year-olds are psyching each other out, but meets like this can be intimidating and intense,” Teichman said. “After this experience, she’ll be a lot more confident and a lot more relaxed.”In her first time competing in an outdoor venue, Gerson struggled to find her bearings during the backstroke. Without the use of a ceiling as a visual guide, it’s not uncommon to see competitors veer off course.”It was harder to go straight,” Gerson admitted. Her time of 40.07 seconds in the 50-back was slower than her seed time, and she was also a little off in the 100-back, posting a 1:25.18 – good for 23rd.Gerson made her most dramatic improvement in the 200-individual medley; her time of 3:06.53 was nearly four seconds faster than her previous best. Gerson was 27th in the 200-freestyle, with a time of 2:48.48, and took 31st in the 100-freestyle.

While she made great strides, the experience Gerson gained is far more valuable than the times she recorded, Teichman said.”This is such a great way for her to experience tough competition at such a young age,” he said. “I told her ‘This is where you belong.’ ” Gerson, too, took more away from the trip than just her final results. She not only had the chance to compete against a crop of new swimmers, she said, but also forged new friendships with her Colorado teammates. Among them was 10-year-old Delaney Lanker of Highlands Ranch, who won the 50-backstroke title with a 35.01. The relationship will undoubtedly aid Gerson’s progress in the water, Teichman said.”Some swimmers go to the bigger meets and it’s a huge wake-up call. For Kelcie to regularly compete against someone at that highest level is a real treat,” he said. “They’ll see each other during the winter meets. The competition will continue to push Kelcie on a daily basis.”

Teichman said Gerson’s work ethic and mindset far exceeds her age. She has also experienced the rewarding feeling of having set, then met her preseason goals.When the two sit down before the fall season kicks off next month, there’s little doubt the goals will again be lofty. Gerson, who has tasted success at such a young age, will be as motivated as ever, Teichman said.”There’s no doubt that, when the season starts, she’ll be ready to go,” he added. “I know she’ll set some pretty high goals for herself. I look forward to helping her work toward them.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is