Youth Swimming: SBA shows pride, spirit

Brandon So has seen his times improve in every event by five seconds from a year ago. 

Whenever the San Benito Aquatics (SBA) swim program enters a multi-team meet, it knows there will be other teams with more talent and numbers.
That’s fine with SBA’s second-year coach, Shelli Reed.
“There’s a lot of pride in being the most spirited team,” said Reed, a former San Benito High standout who enjoyed a solid college swimming career at the University of New Hampshire. “We’re going into CVALs (Central Valley Aquatic League meet on Aug. 7-9) as one of the smaller teams in the league, and we try to have the most spirit. We’re a little ways off from being able to win the meet, but we can be the loudest and most enthusiastic. It means a lot to support each other.”
That type of positive perspective fuels every swimmer in the program, especially the trio of Adam Bonnet, Brandon So and Jaya Waller. All three swimmers qualified for this weekend’s Junior Olympics at Independence High School in San Jose.
Bonnet and Waller are entering the seventh grade at Spring Grove, while So is an incoming seventh grader at Southside. So said he was excited for the event, having competed in the Junior Olympics a year ago.
So will be swimming in three events: the 50 backstroke, 100 backstroke and 200 individual medley. So said his times in each of those events are around five seconds faster compared to a year ago, and he’s hoping to set a couple of more personal-records (PRs) at the tougher Far Western Championships in San Jose on July 29 to Aug. 2.
So started swimming three years ago, but was more of a reluctant participant.
“I was bored one summer, so my mom decided to put me in the pool,” he said. “At first, I didn’t want to do it, but I realized it was good for me, so I continued. Once I saw other people going faster than me, I wanted to be as fast or faster than all of them.”
Bonnet, 12, has also been swimming for three years, having received a push from his parents, Jim and Julie, who are both former swim standouts. Adam prefers the distance events, and he’ll be competing in the 800 freestyle at the Junior Olympics. For 500 meters, Bonnet said he can keep a 1 minute, 16 second pace for every 100 meters, which is a strong pace.
Waller, 11, started swimming nearly four years ago, and now counts it as her favorite activity. In the summer, SBA practices twice a day, something Waller loves. A year-round swimmer, Waller’s routine in the summer consists of a two hour swim in the morning, an hour in the afternoon and an hour of body-weight training in the late afternoon/evening. SBA’s program is designed to get kids strong in the pool.
“We’ll do push-ups, lunges and squats,” she said. “I don’t like doing them sometimes, but I know they’re good for me and will help me become a stronger swimmer.”
In the Junior Olympics, Waller will be swimming the 50 free, 50 butterfly, 50 breaststroke and 200 free. Waller hasn’t hit a qualifying time yet for the Far Western Championships, but she’s only half a second off in the 50 fly. Waller sounded like a seasoned veteran when she talked about her mental preparation.
“I have to get my head in the game for the 50 fly,” she said. “I have to make sure to get in a proper warm-up because one little thing can make your race.”
Waller has a great reason for loving the sport—she’s simply more confident in the water.
“I’m not really good at other land sports because I’m clumsy,” she said.
After the team’s photo shoot last week at Rovella’s—also the squad’s practice location—Bonnet, So and Waller expressed optimism for the future.
After all, the trio has only been swimming for a relatively short period, and they’ve all seen their times improve in the last year. Reed has brought a positive attitude that rubs off on the swimmers.
“I’m really excited because we have a lot of younger swimmers on this team, and you just want their love for swimming to grow,” Reed said. “Our emphasis is the kids aren’t going to swim well if they’re not having fun. The goal is to get swimmers faster but do it in a way where they won’t get burned out.”
That’s a balance swimmers like Waller appreciate.
“The summer is probably the most exciting part of the year for me because I get to do multiple practices a day,” she said. “There are hard, fun days, and it gets me through the meets at the end of the season.”

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