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The City Journals

Mighty, Mighty CHAT: Cottonwood Heights Aquatic Team Finds Strength in Numbers

Jul 29, 2016 09:13AM ● By Sarah Almond

By Sarah Almond

Cottonwood Heights, Utah - At 5:30 a.m. on any given day, the outdoor long-course pool at the Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center is smooth as glass. The second the clock strikes 6 a.m., however, the kicks and strokes of Cottonwood Heights Aquatic Team’s (CHAT) 170 swimmers churn these once-calm waters into choppy froth.

“We’ve got a great group again this year, but we don’t really have room to grow anymore,” Etherington said. “We use all of the pool time that we have.”

The team’s senior group trains 6–8 a.m. every Monday through Saturday and 4–6 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Swimmers at the age-group level swim 8–10 a.m. Monday through Friday and do dryland workouts after every practice.

“We’re used to be pretty dominant with the older kids,” Etherington said. “But I’ve noticed that starting to change, so we’re pulling in quite a few younger kids.”

Etherington and three assistant coaches oversee the sizable group, each taking time to work individually with every level.

“We have the otters, which is our 10-and-under group; then we have the tiger sharks, which is the 11-to-13-year-old group; we have a junior team, which is 12-, 13- 14-year-olds; and then we have our senior group,” Etherington said.

Unlike the team’s winter season or common high school teams where goals are very group oriented, Etherington uses the summer season to focus on swimmers’ individual goals.

“A lot of us have broken personal records this summer,” 15-year-old Alex Harries said.

While Etherington has been pleased with the group’s efforts and improvements this summer, he’s got high hopes for the remainder of CHAT’s season.

“We’ve had a lot of great swimming so far,” Etherington said. “But hopefully the highlights are still to come.”

Several of CHAT’s senior swimmers trained all summer to prepare for the Utah Swimming Long-Course Championships held the third weekend in July.

“We had 38 kids who qualified for the state championships, and then I’m taking 12 swimmers to zones,” Etherington said.

Hosted by USA Swimming, the Zone Championship features top regional swimmers at both the senior and age-group levels who qualify for meets within four designated zones: eastern, central, southern and western.

Etherington says he thinks that 2016 being an Olympic year and the recent broadcasting of the Olympic Trials has definitely kept CHAT swimmers excited and enthusiastic about finishing the long summer season on a high note.

“Jumping in the pool in the morning is the worst part about swimming,” 15-year-old Quentin Tyler said. “It’s mentally challenging. You’re all comfy in your pajamas and then you have to get in your suit and jump into ice-cold water.”

While Quentin’s fellow swimmers laugh in agreement, they also admit that this challenge is a small price to pay for getting to train with friends all summer.

“Getting to hang out together is definitely a highlight, because not all of us go to the same high school so we don’t get to see each other,” Alex said, when referring to her teammates in silver group. “So when CHAT season comes around in the summer we all get to see each other again.”

Alex is not alone in her love of CHAT’s social aspect.

“It’s like a big family reunion,” 16-year-old Chase Miyagishima, also a zones qualifier, said. “And even though we are like a big loving family, we still push each other and encourage each other to be better.”

Etherington and the 12 qualifying CHAT swimmers will compete at the Zone Championship in Fresno, CA on August 2. The team’s winter season begins Monday, August 29. Children interested in joining the team are encouraged to attend tryouts at the Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center indoor pool on Friday, August 26 at 4 p.m.