The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

March 23, 2013

Paddling away

Spire hosts major swim meet

Staff Writer

HARPERSFIELD TOWNSHIP — More than 500 swimmers, representing more than 60-some teams from all over the country are flying through the water at Spire Institute this weekend.

“We have teams from Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania,” said Spire Institute Acquatics Director Jim Bocci of a few of the states represented at the swim meet that will help some qualify for USA swimming national meets in the next several months.

The meet is sponsored by the Speedo swim suit company, Bocci said. He said the swimmers had to have a qualifying time to come to the meet and then preliminary heats whittle the field down to 32 for four eight person finals in each event.

He said the athletes range in age from 14 to 15 years all the way to swimmers who have graduated from college.

The Lake Erie Silver Dolphins are a regional swim team that includes 400 swimmers from all over northeastern Ohio. Bocci said the team was winning the meet Friday evening.

Bocci said the swimmers train at Spire Institute, Hawken, Mayfield High School, the Chagrin Valley Athletic Club.

“It is the largest team in the  region,” he said.

Kaitlyn Johnson, 23 years old and originally from Uniontown, Pa., and a graduate of Clarion University is thankful for Spire Institute after nearly retiring from swimming last year after missing Olympic Swim Trial qualifying by .1 second  in the 50 meter freestyle event.

Johnson said she has been swimming since she was four years. She said she can’t really imagine life without swimming.

A fast time in the 50 meter freestyle qualified her for the U.S. Open Swim Meet this summer. She said she is not sure if she will try to make the 2016 U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials but is excited to be swimming and working at Spire Institute.

“I’m taking it a year at a time right now,” she said.

Alexis Kraatz, a Midwest sports marketer for Speedo said Spire Institute is a great place to have the swim meet. “This is truly a gem. This is not something you see in the Midwest,” she said of the world class pool complex.