The Tri-City Tidalwaves enjoyed a solid weekend at the U.S. Swimming Ozarks Long Course Swim Championships at the Chuck Fruit Aquatic Center in Edwardsville.
A trio of Tidalwaves really excelled in the pool, with Eleni Kotzamanis earning high point with 140 points in the girls' 11-12 division, Jake Roth being high point for boys' 11-12 with 140 points and Matthew Daniel getting high point with 114 points in the boys' 15-and-over division.
Kotzamanis won all of seven her events on the weekend by a landslide, garnering the Penny Taylor Award for Most Outstanding Swimmer. The award is voted on by the coaches. Daniel won the award a year ago, marking back-to-back seasons it's been won by a Tidalwaves' swimmer.
Nancy Miller, head coach of the Tidalwaves, said its a prodigious honor to win the award and to see two of her swimmers win it consecutively is outstanding.
“ It's so exciting for me as a coach for them to win the Penny Taylor Award,” Miller said. “I know Penny Taylor, she was my husband's coach. She began her career with the Ferguson Ritenour YMCA, which was the first YMCA national championship team... She herself was an Olympian and she coached the Olympic team. She was just a real pioneer for swimming in the St. Louis area, so for the two of them to win this back-to-back to represent my team is just an extraordinary accomplishment and a thrill for me knowing the roots of where the award came from.”
Kotzmanis won the 50-meter freestyle in 28.70, the 100 freestyle in 1:01.67, the 200 free in 2:14.51, the 400 free in 4:45.46, the 50-meter backstroke in 32.90, the 100 backstroke 1:09.19 and the 100-meter butterfly in 1:10.92.
Roth's dominance in the boys' 11-12 division saw him win seven events, too. Roth prevailed in the 50-meter freestyle in 29.05, the 100 freestyle in 1:03.17, the 200 free in 2:17.04, the 400 free 4:46.99, the 50-meter breaststroke in 37.31, the 100 breaststroke in 1:24.19 and the 200 IM in 2:33.85.
Miller said the rise of both Kotzmanis and Roth has been a thrill for her to watch.
“ These two are great role models in practice as well as meets and every team needs those role models,” Miller said.
Throw in what Daniel accomplished and to have three TCAY swimmers achieve such tremendous success as high point finishers has made their coach ecstatic.
“ There were 550 swimmers in attendance at this meet and there were over 30 teams, so for these three swimmers to win first high point is really a tremendous accomplishment,” Miller said. “There are so many swimmers, not just in the St. Louis area, but it goes down to Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, so it's quite a big territory. Many thousands of kids swim in Ozark and for these three to walk away with high point is tremendous. It's a testament to their God-given talent and a great compliment to their training and how hard that they've worked. They've earned the right to be champions.”
Daniel was stellar in the boys' 15-and-over division. He's making a name for himself. After winning the Penny Taylor Award last year, Daniel went on to qualify for state as a freshman at Alton High School. The sophomore-to-be is looking to build on that success this season.
Over the weekend, he won five of seven events and placed second in the other two. Daniel won the 100-meter freestyle in 54.58, the 200 free in 2:01.23, the 400 free in 4:17.06, the 800 free in 8:51.09, the 200-meter butterfly in 2:11.98. He was second in the 50 free in 25.13 and the 100 butterfly in 59.50.
Miller said watching the progression of Daniel has been fun. The future is bright for the 15-year-old.
“ Matthew is living proof of the old adage that hidden training makes all the difference,” Miller said. “Muhammad Ali was famous for saying that before he danced under the lights in competition he spent many grueling hours training and training and training that people didn't see. Matthew certainly fits right in that category. From the time he was eight years old he's focused quite a bit on conditioning not only in the pool, but outside the pool with running and calisthenics and building his flexibility and his strength. He very conscientious of taking care of himself as far as nutrition and sleep and he's also very conscientious on how to race. He's built confidence because of that over all these years and now it's really paying off. You can really see the fruit of his labors now that he's stepping into the senior ranks.”
Daniel is sliding into a leadership role for the Tidalwaves and the Summers-Port Sharks. With the departure of talented swimmers like Christian Aragona, Addison Kaufmann and Davion Conley.
“ I've been grooming the next leaders and Matthew is definitely one of those,” Miller said. “I might make it three or four people as team captains and certainly he's a strong candidate for that as are a few others. Leadership is one of the most important parts of a team.”
There were 10 TCAY swimmers entered in the Ozark meet. The other Tidalwaves there were: Christian Kotzamanis, Nathan Kotzamanis, Nicholas Kotzamanis, Anna Moehn, Patrick Moehn, Ginny Schranck and Claire Spain.
Miller has a slew of assistant coaches, including: Jen Roth, Alex Schenk, Garth Akal, Katrina Yemm, Addie Schenk, Tiffany Lubinski and Chelsea Walsh.
Currently, Miller is in San Antonio, Texas with Conley as he competes in the 2015 Junior Speedo National Championships. Conley competed in the 100-meter butterfly, but came up short. He still has the 50-meter freestyle ahead of him on Monday and Miller thinks it could be a big race for him.
“ He's really setting himself up on Monday when he competes in the 50 free,” Miller said. “One interesting thing about Davion is he had the fastest time out of the blocks. They measure everybody's reaction time off the blocks and Davion by far had the quickest reaction out of the 100-meter breaststroke. That sets him up well for the 50 free where the start is such an integral part of the race.”
All the success across the board for Miller's swimmers has her relishing every second of it.
“ I feel very blessed that I am where I am,” she said. “It's certainly a mixture of many things, not just my coaching style, but I have tremendous assistant coaches... I'm blessed with many people that make it happen and having tremendous swimmers makes it look easy.”