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CYSC Swimming

The Columbus Youth Swimming Club poses for a group photo earlier this season before the state meet. Coach Natalie Holmstedt, bottom right, was in her first year leading the group. The boys were third at state and the girls fourth.

Henry Ramaekers kept track every time he and Fremont's Landon Lamson went head-to-head in the 50-yard freestyle.

Henry swims in the boys 11-12 age division for the local Columbus YMCA youth program. The Columbus Youth Swimming Club, also know as the CYSC Riptide, swims a meet each month from September through March culminating in the state meet at the end of the season.

At every one of those meets was the swim club from Fremont and Landon Lamson. Needless to say, the two are familiar foes.

The last opportunity for that duo to do battle came March 9 at the state meet in Fremont.

"They went back-and-forth all year in the 50 free and the 50 back. They just had this really fun rivalry where they wished each other luck and congratulated one another at the end of every meet," Columbus coach Natalie Holmstedt said.

"He would get out of the pool and come and ask, 'Did he beat me? How bad did he beat me? Did I beat him?' because not every pool posted the times. It was fun. The whole season was leading up to this. I told Henry he was going to beat him, and he blew him away. He beat him by over a second."

Henry swam the 50 free in 26.74, seconds while Landon came in at 27.84. At the time though, Henry wasn't quite sure what he had accomplished.

The timing system had malfunctioned and posted the first place time for a lane that hadn't yet finished the event.

Holmstedt and assistant coach Stephanie Dicke though, had it quickly figured out.

"He looked up from the water and I said, 'Your time is the fastest time up there,' and he said, 'Yes' and pounded the water," Holmstedt remembered. "It was a great moment for him. It was something he worked for all season."

Henry's success was perhaps the highlight of a state meet full of highlights for CYSC.

Despite having 15 to 20 fewer members than most other teams from places such as Fremont, Blair, Grand Island, Kearney and Lincoln, the Riptide boys were third at state with 646 total points. The girls were fourth with 805.

Jaden Miller won a state championship in the boys 13-14 50 free, the girls 8 & Under 100 free including Audrey Faltys, Kennedi Springer, Bailey Becker and Gabby Drymon took home gold, that same group was on top the podium in the 100 medley relay and Gabby Drymon was the champ in the 50 free and the 25 breaststroke.

Ellie Newbanks in the girls 13-14 200 free, Shae Drymon in the girls 13-14 50 free, Emily Miksch in the girls 15-18 50 free, Miller in the boys 200 individual medley, Ramaekers in the 50 backstroke and 100 free were all runners-up.

Ten swimmers qualified to the regional meet held this weekend in Des Moines.

Holmstedt is in her first year leading the program after watching from a distance as a swim parent. Though soccer is where she finds almost all of her personal athletic identity, swimming is where she has found her love for coaching.

"I have not only run soccer programs but coached soccer since I was in my early 20s, I’m 38, and I absolutely find so much joy in coaching swimming," she said.

Holmstedt swims regularly early in the morning at the YMCA where members of the aquatics program talked her into becoming a lifeguard. A fellow mother suggested she step in as the coach when the program nearly went defunct in August.

The prior coach took a new job and longer had the time for regular practices and meets. There still wasn't a coach with the first practice only weeks away.

Holmstedt stepped in initially as a way to keep the program alive but then found something more.

A lot of it has to do with her nature as an athlete. As a soccer coach, she remembered leading one of her daughter's teams that went winless in a tournament but nonetheless earned medals.

"My daughter got into the back of my car and said, ‘We’ve got to call daddy and tell him about the medal we won,’ and I just turned around and said, ‘You did not win a medal.’ My explanation was, your sister has to get in the top six places in order to earn a ribbon in swimming," Holmstedt said.

"Pure joy. It suits me so much. I’m such a competitor, so my competitive flag gets to fly because I get to push these kids. But we have fun too."

The CYSC is always looking for more members to join up for next season. Assistant coach Dicke is planning a clinic in August for those who have little to no experience to get a taste of learning the strokes and finding out what it takes to be a competitive swimmer.

After four regular practices each week and six meets throughout the season, even beginners are likely to find success. Holmstedt points to Henry as an example.

He had an illegal breaststroke at the beginning of the season before eventually qualifying for regionals in the event.

"We left state with only two swimmers empty handed, that’s it. Out of the 33 we took, we only had two that came home without a ribbon or a medal," Holmstedt said.

"I’m invested with these kids. I love them all. They’re amazing."

Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sports@columbustelegram.com

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