Although the Rockdale Riptides swim team had nine competitors qualify for this weekend's 2012 Georgia 14 & Under Short Course Championships at the Georgia Tech Natatorium, the Conyers-based team figures to be a small fish in a big pond.
"We have about 80 swimmers in our program, which is great, but we'll be going up against teams from all over the state and some of them have a lot of great swimmers to turn to," said Riptides assistant coach Sean Willette. "SwimAtlanta, for instance, has 6,000 swimmers in their program and Dynamo probably has close to 3,000. We're just a small team, but we've got some really good swimmers."
The Riptides, who are coached by Gregg Ellwanger, practice four nights a week at Johnson Park and will swim in about two dozen races this weekend. Willette said the chances that Riptide competitors will come home from Georgia Tech with many medals is somewhat slim, but qualifying for this weekend's state meet is a victory in and of itself since there are thousands of swimmers across the state but only about 500 athletes competing at Georgia Tech, which served as the swimming home of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.
"It's so hard just to get to state," said Willette, who notes that the 2012 short-course season is rapidly winding down. "It's a victory to qualify. Swimmers have to hit certain times just to qualify, so there's plenty of motivation there. This is the kind of event where it's prestigious enough just to qualify."
Willette added that while nine Riptide swimmers qualified for state, only eight will hit the pool, as 12-year-old Jacob Allen, who qualified for 10 events, recently suffered a broken ankle and will not be able to compete.
Allen had qualified for the 50-yard freestyle, 100 freestyle, 50 backstroke, 50 breaststroke, 100 breaststroke, 200 breaststroke, 50 butterfly, 100 butterfly, 100 individual medley and 200 individual medley.
"Unfortunately, Jacob has a broke ankle and won't be competing," said Willette. "It's really too bad because this was an exciting year for him. And he didn't just kind of break it. He had to have surgery and a pin. But his prognosis is good. He'll be back in the pool soon and it won't take him long to catch up."
Delaney Willette, an 11-year-old competitor, has qualified for six events, including the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle, 200 freestyle, 50 backstroke, 100 backstroke and 200 backstroke.
"Up until this year, the Riptides haven't had any female qualifiers in the 11-and-12 state meet," said Willette. "Delaney qualified in six events and along with Jacob is probably one of our most well-rounded swimmers."
Other Riptide swimmers who will compete this weekend include:
--Ryan Curry (12 years old): 100 backstroke, 200 backstroke, 50 breaststroke, 200 breaststroke.
--Marquese Tucker (9): 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle, 100 breaststroke.
--Fatimah Westbrook (13): 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle, 100 breaststroke.
--Amanda Armstrong (12) 50 freestyle, 50 butterfly.
--Thien-An Maynard (9): 50 breaststroke, 100 breaststroke.
--Billye Lewis (12): 200 butterfly.
--Jade McPike (11): 200 breaststroke.
In addition, Willette, Lewis, Armstrong and Katie Schumacher will compete in the 12 & Under 200 medley relay, and Willette, Sara Marchman, Lewis and Armstrong will compete in the 12 & Under 200 freestyle relay.