Woodstock swimmers take Ireland

Lauren C.

Staff Writer

As an athlete in America, there is no greater honor than the opportunity to represent the United States in an international competition. It is a chance that only comes about for the most elite of competitors, especially in high school. Therefore, when two swimmers from Woodstock High School were offered a trip with the NCSA All-American Team to Dublin, Ireland, it was a very big deal.

Both Alarii Leverault-Lopez, a senior, and Lauren Case, a junior, qualified for the team at the National Club Swimming Association Junior National Meet in Orlando, Florida, at the end of March. To qualify, a swimmer needed to place inside the top two of their respected event, with additional swimmers added at the discretion of the coaching staff until 26 athletes of each gender were named to the team. Case qualified by winning the 100 meter butterfly, as well as putting up top three finishes in the 50 and 200 meter butterfly, as well as the 200 meter freestyle. Lopez earned his spot at the discretion of the coaches after an impressive showing in the 200 meter butterfly, placing fourth in a very stacked field.

The trip was quite the experience, bringing together an elite group of swimmers from states all across the country. All expenses were paid for each athlete, including travel to Dublin from New York City, where the team met up on April 26th to begin the trip. After an overnight flight, they landed in Dublin, ready to go on Monday. The meet was set to begin on Thursday, April 30th, so the first few days in Ireland were spent training and preparing. “We had some hard practices leading up to the meet,” says Lopez, “but we used them as an opportunity to bond as a team. By the time the meet began (the competition started days after arrival in Dublin), we were already a family.” The “family” of swimmers used this close camaraderie to support each other and to promote some outstanding performances throughout the four-day swim meet.

The meet itself, named the Irish Open Championships, featured Ireland’s best athletes of all ages, as well as other all-star teams from nations such as Denmark, England, and Egypt. It took place at the National Aquatic Centre, a state-of-the-art facility in downtown Dublin. The competition was tough, but the United States team was tougher, as they managed to sweep the podium (taking 1st, 2nd, and 3rd) in every relay event and about half of the individual events. American stars such as Katie Drabot and Michael Taylor picked up multiple individual titles, using their international experience and leadership to motivate the rest of the team as well.

As for the Woodstock swimmers, Case came home with five medals, including a gold in the 400 medley relay, as well as three silvers and a bronze. “I was very pleased with mireland 2 LCy performances,” says Case. “With where we are in our training, we are not expected to race this fast at this point in the season, so to step up and represent our country in this way is something to be proud of.” Case was not alone in her medal performances however, as Lopez also brought home a silver and bronze medal for his relay performances with Team USA. While not earning any individual medals, Lopez still has much to be proud of, coming home with personal best times in the 100 and 200 meter butterfly. In the 200 butterfly, he missed the qualifying time for the 2016 Olympic Trials by less than a tenth of a second. While this is a heartbreaking miss, he still has over a year to qualify and is confident in his ability to do so.

The team had the opportunity to do more than just swim while in Ireland for nine days. After the meet was over, there were still two days left in the country. Each was spent taking in all Ireland has to offer. One day was spent throughout downtown Dublin: shopping, eating, and taking in the historic buildings and waterfront tours. Swimmers used this as an opportunity to learn more about the city’s history, as well as spend their allotted euros on souvenirs for themselves, family and friends. The next day began with a drive through the countryside, where the team marveled at the excess of green pasture. They drove to the Glendalough National Park, where they were able to visit historic ruins and take quality pictures together. “The last day was definitely the best,” says Lopez; “it was one last chance to hang out with the team before we had to say good-bye.” The good-byes were certainly hard, but the memories made were worth it.

The team will be reunited again at USA Swimming Nationals this summer in San Antonio Texas, where they will compete with the nation’s best for a trip to the Junior World Championships in Singapore.

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