Local swim club celebrates, sends off athletes to U.S. Olympic Team Trials

TIDE swimming US Trials send off (Kayla Wilson)
Posted at 11:20 PM, May 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-29 23:28:46-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Splashes are accompanied by signs and signing Saturday, as it was a swimming send off at the Princess Anne Family YMCA.

"I don’t think it’s fully come full circle yet," admitted TIDE swimmer Samantha Tadder. "But seeing all the kids over there makes me really happy."

But the posters and the pictures come after practice - because that's how you become among the best in the country.

Seven members of TIDE swimming, mentored by head coach Richard Hunter, are headed to next month's U.S. Swimming Olympic Team Trials.

"For the program, it’s a big deal," Hunter admitted during an interview with News 3 Sports Director Adam Winkler. "Seeing us progress from having just one trials qualifier in 2016, to having the number we have now – it’s fun and it’s a reflection of what the kids are doing every day."

Among the kids headed to Omaha, Nebraska for a shot at making the Olympic team are: Nikki Venema, Elle Caldow, Lauren Barakey, Callie Dickinson, Tadder, Emily Claesson and Kayla Wilson.

Wilson, a junior at Norfolk Academy, actually has dual citizenship and also qualified for the Canadian swim trials.

"It's awesome," Wilson said of her opportunity. "It became real in the past year or so. But, they [Canada] still have a 14-day quarantine, so I probably won’t end up going."

But Omaha is a go.

Saturday, autograph signings and congratulatory signs are also a sign of the times. After a tumultuous 2020, a year in which the Olympics were delayed to this summer, we're now in a better place - without restrictions in place. Therefore, children and adults alike could gather, send off and celebrate.

"I’m super thankful for the support system surrounding us," Emily Claesson, a junior at Kellam High School said. "I just feel very grateful people are here, and it makes me even more excited and even more hyped up to compete in Omaha."

"Looking back on this past year, it was hard as heck and it continues to have some challenges," Coach Hunter added. "Now we have the feeling of: it’s okay to be happy and to celebrate something."

For these swimmers, the U.S. Trials are ahead. But for many of us: last year's trials are hopefully behind us.