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If there’s any truth to the notion that there’s strength in numbers, the Military Kanto Swim Team proved it last weekend.

Led by 8-year-old Claudia Kearn, who won the 50-meter backstroke and two relays and tied for third in the high-point standings for girls 8-and-under, MKST’s 39 swimmers placed sixth with 1,259 points in the two-day American Swim Council in Japan’s Junior Olympic meet at St. Mary’s International School.

MKST came in two spots behind the Okinawa Dolphins Swim Team. With 46 swimmers in tow, they placed fourth with 1,978 points, 396 more than last year and the highest finish in the team’s 10-year history.

MKST’s finish was the highest by any Kanto Plain entity in the Junior Olympic meet’s 29-year history, no doubt helped by the Atsugi Blue Dolphins, Yokosuka Seahawks and Yokota Stingrays combining forces, instead of entering as separate teams.

“Combining our teams was an excellent idea,” said Seahawks mentor Andrea Symak, who coached MKST and who last fall presented the idea of bringing the teams together.

Eight-year-old swimmers set the pace for MKST, which won four events, took silver medals in two others and captured eight bronze medals.

Leading the way was Kearn, a third-grader at Arnn Elementary School, who swam the 50 backstroke in 50.93 seconds and swam the lead leg of the 100 medley relay (1 minute, 32.20 seconds) and 100 freestyle relay (1:19.95). Nicole Limberg took the 25 breaststroke (24.99) and swam the second leg of the 100 medley relay.

The girls 9- and 10-year-old relay teams also captured two bronze medals.

MKST’s performance suitably impressed at least one other coach.

Combining forces “lets them have a larger complement of relays and fills in the age groups much better,” said ODST’s 10th-year coach Mat Luebbers. “I think the move to make them one team was a very good one. Blending the bases allows them to be on a bit more of an even playing field.”

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