This weekend is making me a reminisce a little.
Fourteen years ago I started covering swimming on the peninsula, just about the time that the sport really started gaining ground and national recognition thanks to a handful of swimmers from Bremerton and Bainbridge.
Those swimmers included breaststroker Tara Kirk, sister and butterflyer Dana Kirk of Bremerton, Helen Silver, backstroke, and sister Emily Silver, freestyle, of Bainbridge Island and Bremerton’s Justin Adrian, fly/free and eventually his brother Nathan Adrian.
It was an exciting time as I was able to travel to California for a week where the Kirks were attending Stanford and Helen Silver was at California, and we ran that story when I came back. The following year in 2004 we went to Long Beach for the U.S. Olympic Trials and watched as both Tara and Dana made the Olympic team — the first time sisters had made the same team in USA Swimming history. The Silvers and Justin competed as well so there was a lot for one hometown reporter to cover. I distinctly remember Justin being so stoked to swim in the final of the 100 butterfly, a race won by Michael Phelps, before he officially called it the end of his career.
After the Kirks made the team it wasn’t long before I received a call from our editor at the time to let me know that the paper was going to send myself and a photographer to Athens to cover the Olympics. I’ll never forget my two weeks there as we tried to cover the world’s biggest sporting spectacle from the outside looking in. Because we didn’t have full credentials we spent a lot of time with the Kirks’ parents, Jeff and Margaret, as they toured Athens, the Acropolis and went to beach parties and such.
We did manage to find our way into one swimming event, Tara’s 100 breaststroke final, and that was thrilling. She lead after the first 50 meters and I remember sitting in the stands, my photographer trying to shoot from the stands (yes, we weren’t supposed to) and thinking that ‘I’m watching the Olympics and our hometown swimmer is trying to win a medal.’ Surreal.
Jumping ahead to Saturday, it’s been great seeing Dana competing at the U.S. Masters Spring National Championships at Santa Clara, Calif. She gave the U.S. trials one more shot in 2012 (good for her as a back injury curtailed her career far too soon) and now that she’s coaching I’m sure it’s also been fun to get back into the competition pool.
Dana won the 100-yard individual medley in the 25-29 age category in 57.75 seconds. She also finished third in the 100 free in 52.36.
Nathan continues to be the best American sprinter. He won the 100 free in the 25-29 age category in a national age-group record of 41.08, besting the previous time of Darian Townsend’s mark of 42.13 from last Dec. Townsend finished second in Saturday’s race in 43.13. That means Nathan won by almost two seconds. Wow. The time also tied his American record.
Dana has one more race Sunday and I’ll post another update then.