A 25-yard gulf of crystal, chlorinated water separated Alexis Krzyzaniak’s steely-eyed resolve from the touch pad on the other side of the pool. And she wasn’t averse to some intimidation in pursuit of her goal.
Emblazoned across her back in bold black Sharpie for her seven opponents to see was this menacing message: “Beware of the Wave.”
Truth be told, the diminutive Voyager Academy third-grader was barely big enough to make a ripple at Koury Natatorium on the UNC campus. And she was painfully shy when talking to a reporter.
But that didn’t stop the little water skipper from setting an Umstead Pines team record of 17.99 in the 25-yard butterfly at Friday night’s 16-team Durham Summer Swim League championships and winning her heat.
“I was going to beat the record,” Alexis said of what her focus was as she prepared for her event.
Eight-year-old Alexis was one of 337 swimmers who competed in 113 heats in the 7-8 and 6 and under categories. Competition resumes at 8 a.m. today in the 9-10 and 11-12 divisions, and at 1 p.m. for the 13-14 and 15-18 divisions.
Another record fell when 6-year-old Lukas Bentsen of Vance Aquatics Club completed the 6-under butterfly in 19.54 seconds.
Heading into today’s competition Duke Faculty Club led all 16 teams with 527 points. Woodcroft was second with 433.50, Parkwood was third at 384, Hope Valley Country Club fourth at 370, and Treyburn fifth at 251.50.
Caroline Healey of the Eno Valley team took second place in her 7-8 25-yard freestyle heat.
Written in Sharpie across her back was “Eat my Bubbles,” courtesy of her coach, “because I was in the fastest heat,” she said. Across her left arm were written her events and heat numbers as reminders to make sure she got where she needed to go – and on time.
Caroline said she wasn’t too disappointed about not winning. She’s got lots of other first place finishes this season, she said. “I just really care about fun.”
Benjamin “Digger” Pritchard of the Treyburn team had a notion swimming is fun, and winning is better. He got gold in his 25-yard freestyle and backstroke events, and second in butterfly, all coming in heats boasting the fastest qualifying times.
Benjamin, an 8-year-old Little River Elementary School student who’s been swimming “since I was 4 or 3” – he couldn’t remember that far back – said his competition “was tough. I knew some of them.”
His coach, Haley Butters, who’s been part of DSSL for 17 years and is now a junior volleyball player at Denison University in Ohio, said Digger “has an incredible work ethic. He comes to practice every day. He’s up there with the 15-18 year olds, and all the other kids are at the other end of the pool doing their workout, and he’s doing the big kids’ workout.”
She said “it’s just amazing to see the progress from 4 years old to now. He’s going to do incredible things. He will never tell you how good he is. He’s a very humble kid.”
First-year Woodcroft head coach Cole Dutton, a former swimmer at Wingate University outside of Charlotte, was hoping to challenge Parkwood for first place today.
“It’s a friendly competition. They’ve been champs for quite a while,” Dutton said, prior to the team scores being posted showing Duke Faculty Club in first.
He said DSSL is “a lot more competitive than what I grew up with” in the Myrtle Beach area. “A lot more energetic.”
“We’re happy to have good competition,” said Parkwood head coach Greg Zoltners, who swam collegiately at Yale University. “I think the league has been very close to parity in the last two years, and we’ve just been lucky to win all our dual meets until this year,” having dropped the matchup with Woodcroft to open the regular season.
“What I tell the kids is that we don’t have any control over what other people do, and we want to have good people to race, so whoever’s in the lane next to you, just race them and do your best,” Zoltners said.
“Our job is to get them loving the sport, and getting them the basic skills,” he said. “We taught 40 kids to swim this year. That to me is very rewarding.”
1. Duke Faculty Club 527, 2. Woodcroft 433. 50, 3. Parkwood 384, 4. Hope Valley Country Club 370.50. Treyburn 251. 50, 6. Hope Valley Farms 210. 50, 7. Vance Aquatics Club 209, 8. Fairfield 199, 9. Garrett Farms 151. 50, 10. Croasdaile 125. 50, 11. Eno Valley 122, 12. Homestead Heights 106, 13. Five Oaks 105, 14. Umstead Pines 94. 50,15. Black Horse Run 80. 50, 16. Hardscrabble 72. 50.