EINDHOVEN, Netherlands --- Best times, records and gold medals. That’s the stuff that swimmers dream about.
Most of the 492 swimmers gathered for the 2013 European Forces Swim League championships were able to taste at least one of those this weekend and a select few got a three-course meal of championship swimming glory.
The two-day championships at Nationaal Zwemcentrum de Tongelreep in Eindhoven, Netherlands, featured 19 teams of swimmers comprised of DODDS and international school students. Overall, 12 league records were toppled at the meet.
Sunday featured a swimming rarity that highlights just how much hundredths of a second can mean in the sport and a quick example to provide to anyone questioning the logic of male swimmers shaving their legs.
Sigonella’s Brian Burke, 15, broke the 15-16-year-old boys 50-meter freestyle league record by just .01 seconds with his time of 25.43, beating the 2006 record. Kaiserslautern’s Everett Plocek finished second with a time of 25.49.
Plocek didn’t have to hang his head long, though, as he led off his team’s freestyle relay during the competition’s last event and finished in 25.42, just .01 seconds faster than Burke’s earlier time. Because he led off his relay team, his split counts as a record, according to league officials.
Wiesbaden Wahoo Tyler Peng notched the overall top performance of the weekend. Peng, 8, was able to match his age with his gold medal count by winning every individual race he swam. He bested league marks in the 8-and-under boys 200 and 100-meter freestyle races.
Twelve-year-old Niki Buggenhout with the Brussels Octopus wasn’t too far behind. Buggenhout broke EFSL records in the 50-meter breaststroke and 200-meter individual medley.
While plenty of younger swimmers were making waves at the EFSL champs, some high school seniors were hoping to go out on top and attract some attention from college programs.
Lakenheath High School senior Kilian Korth, an EFSL veteran swimming for the Lakenheath Barracuda since he was six, said he has attracted interest from one college program and hopes to gain the interest of more.
“It’s a nice farewell and I want to leave a mark,” Korth said on Saturday.
His three victories on Saturday didn’t hurt his prospects for that at all, but an illness that landed him in the hospital Sunday looked to slow down his championship victories.
But he only missed two of his four events Sunday and even came back to set a league record in the 100-meter backstroke.
Chantel Wynn, a Wiesbaden High School senior, also hopes to swim competitively at the college level and put up a strong finale by winning seven of the eight events she competed in, including the final individual event of the day, the 200-meter freestyle.
It looked like SHAPE’s Heidi Northshield was going to end Wynn’s career with a sour note as she closed in on Wynn during the last half of the race. Wynn smartly swam the final 50 meters away from the lane rope closest to Northshield, preventing the SHAPE Seal from drafting. Northshield’s strokes became choppier as she got tired in the homestretch and Wynn maintained her smooth stroke to finish in first.
Wynn said despite her success over the weekend, she wasn’t completely satisfied with her performance.
“Sometimes the medals don’t matter to me if my times aren’t there,” Wynn said.
It wasn’t just seniors saying goodbye to the EFSL, though, as the Heidelberg Sea Lions competed for the last time.
The Sea Lions, a founding team in the league 38 years ago, swam their final lap on Sunday. On Saturday during the team parade before the championships began, each Sea Lions swimmer symbolically held a checkered flag as they walked around the pool.
“It’s a little bittersweet to be a founding father and then it’s gone,” said Sea Lions coach Ashley Wolff.
Other top medalists included:
Sebastian Lunak, 10, NATO, (seven gold medals); Benjamin Balla, 11, SHAPE, (seven gold medals); Vincent de Munter, 12, Geilenkirchen (seven gold medals)
Additional league records:
Daniel Orcutt, 14, Lakenheath, 200-meter IM; Balla, 50-meter backstroke; Luis Carrara, 11, Lisbon, 50-meter backstroke; Alaina Scifo, 15, Lakenheath, 100-meter backstroke; Heidi Northshield, 17, SHAPE, 100-meter backstroke