Niskayuna resident Caroline McGraw, left, met her favorite male swimmer, Ryan Lochte, at the United States Olympic team trials in Omaha, Neb. McGraw was one of three Albany Starfish members to watch the trials.
NISKAYUNA Caroline McGraw and Emma Griffith got to see some of their swimming heroes up close.
The two young Niskayuna residents – along with Albany Starfish teammate Lauren Serotta – traveled to Omaha, Neb., last month to see the United States Olympic team trials and participate in a swimming clinic conducted by former Olympians Ian Crocker, Aaron Piersol and Misty Hyman.
They also saw former Starfish Patrick Dyer and Michael Dugan compete in the Olympic trials. And though neither Dyer nor Dugan made it past the preliminary rounds of their events, McGraw and Griffth said it was exciting to see them compete.
“It was shocking to see them competing with some of the best swimmers in the country,” said McGraw, an 11-year-old who is entering seventh grade in September. “It’s something you only get to see once in a while.”
“We made posters for Mikey (Dugan) and Patrick (Dyer),” said Griffith. “When they swam, we’d walk down to the railing with our posters and started cheering them on. People gave us some strange looks, like they were saying, ‘Who are you rooting for?’”
Dyer (Shaker) and Dugan (Mohonasen) were part of a larger Section II alumni contingent competing at the U.S. team trials. Jenna Bickel (Guilderland), Amy Bopp (Shenendehowa), Kathryn Rowe (Scotia-Glenville) and Briana Borgolini (Ballston Spa) also participated in the week-long event at Omaha’s CenturyLink Center.
“Having those kids get there, that’s the best feeling,” said Steven Hall, head coach of Niskayuna High School’s varsity swimming teams and an assistant coach with the Starfish. “Having the little kids there supporting them was really cool.”
The real benefit for McGraw, Griffith and Serotta was the opportunity to learn from former U.S. Olympians at the clinics. There, they discovered the difference between the average competitive swimmer and an Olympian is the amount of time an Olympian devotes to the sport.