Far West and away …

Daniel Shields, who trains for both the Gators and the Gilroy

Morgan Hill
– This was what the Morgan Hill swimming backers dreamed of when
they were pushing for a top-notch aquatics center. A major regional
swim meet attracting hundreds, even thousands, of swimmers and fans
from far and wide to Morgan Hill.
Morgan Hill – This was what the Morgan Hill swimming backers dreamed of when they were pushing for a top-notch aquatics center. A major regional swim meet attracting hundreds, even thousands, of swimmers and fans from far and wide to Morgan Hill.

Beginning Thursday, hundreds of the top swimmers in the Western United States and Canada will be in town for the Far Westerns Championships swim meet at the Morgan Hill Aquatics Center next week.

The four-day meet, which is sponsored by Pacific Swimming and hosted by the Morgan Hill Aquatics Club (Makos), is expected to draw as many as 1,200 swimmers and a total of about 2,000 people per day.

Competition in a variety of events and age groups begins at 9am each day, with daily finals set to begin at 4pm. Admission is free.

According to Meet Director Denise Melroy, the meet is an opportunity for locals to see the top swimmers in the 11-18 age group in the region.

“This is a showcase meet, a very prestigious thing and a very big deal for Pacific Swimming and for our local swim chapter,” Melroy said.

All the swimmers competing at the regional swim meet had to qualify by time in their event at other sanctioned swim meets.

According to the Makos’ John Rick, the meet will feature swimmers who could some day compete in the Olympics.

“We’ll definitely have kids with Olympic trials cuts here,” Rick said. “It’s a high intensity meet. These kids are pretty darned fast.”

Swimmers and teams from the South Valley area, including the Makos, El Toro Aquatics, the Gilroy Gators and San Benito Aquatics, will join competitors from the Bay Area and the rest of California, along with Nevada, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, Utah, and even Virginia and Canada.

Local swimmers participating from the Gilroy Gators and Gilroy High include Luke and Lee Walton, Matt and Daniel Shields, Scott Castruita, Santiago Maciel, Kyle Martin, Megan Collett and Nicole Kramer.

John Rick said this weekend’s swim meet is the third in a series of events that have helped put the new Aquatics Center on the map while raising money.

The Far Westerns follow in the footsteps of the Coast Valley Aquatics League finals in August, which drew hundreds of swimmers and fans, and the hugely popular visit by a trio of Olympic swimmers including Michael Phelps last fall, which drew thousands.

But the Far Westerns is a whole new level of event, Rick said, and will serve as a kind of predictor of the viability of future events.

Rick said the Makos and the Aquatics Center are already considering a bid for the 2006 Summer Sectionals swim meet in July, the next level of competition.

“Morgan Hill has never hosted an event like this before,” he said. “We topped Michael Phelps (with the Far Westerns).

“We’re still trying to convince the city to close down the center for four days in July. We have to try to justify that with (the Far Westerns).

“That’s why we’ve got to make this work. It’s our first foray into major meet hosting and it will give us a very nice chance for next year.”

Rick said he was told by Aquatics Center officials that the CVAL finals was the biggest weekend of the summer.

“I think we can build the argument (for the Sectionals meet),” he said.

The Far Westerns meet is expected to earn the Aquatics Center an estimated $35,000 and bring in about $13,000 for the Makos.

Rick said he believes there will be plenty of room at the Aquatics Center for all the swimmers and teams, and said the only things he’s worried about are the “parking and the weather.”

Rick’s concerns about parking, and by extension, potential traffic congestion, would seem to be well-founded considering the timing of the event.

On both Saturday and Sunday this weekend, the Orchard Valley Youth Soccer League will host the Northern California State Cup at the adjacent Morgan Hill Soccer Complex, an event that is expected to draw about 1,400 players and many more fans to the area. (The State Cup will also continue through the following weekend.)

And, on Sunday, the popular Haru Matsuri spring festival will be held nearby.

Morgan Hill will also be a hotbed of activity the following weekend when the South Valley Wine Auction starts things off on Friday, April 9, followed by the Morgan Hill Pony Baseball Opening Day ceremonies on Saturday, and the Morgan Hill Grand Prix criterium bicycle races in downtown Morgan Hill on Sunday.

The Aquatics Center is located at 16200 Condit Road between Tennant and Dunne Avenues on the east side of Highway 1 in Morgan Hill.

For information, call the Morgan Hill Swim Club hotline at 782-0088 or the Morgan Hill Aquatics Center at 782-2134.


Far Westerns swim meet


March 31-April 3


Morgan Hill Aquatic Center, 16200 Condit Rd., Morgan Hill

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