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Stingrays dive into swim season at Greensburg YMCA

| Friday, Nov. 30, 2012, 11:34 a.m.
Anna Mitchell, 10, swims the 50 meter breast stroke with the Greensburg YMCA Stingrays team during invitational swim meet on November 24, 2012 at the YMCA in Greensburg. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Swimmers wait for their heat to start during invitational swim meet on November 24, 2012 at the YMCA in Greensburg. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

Daniel Yu cheered so loudly at the Greensburg YMCA's first meet of the competitive swim season Saturday that he still sounded hoarse a couple days afterward.

“I lost my voice from yelling so much,” said Yu, 17, a senior at Greensburg Salem High School who swims for both the school and YMCA teams.

“I did OK, I guess, for the beginning of the season. I'm hoping to break some personal records,” said Daniel, who has been swimming at the Y since his family moved to the district five years ago.

Last year, Yu went to the WPIAL state finals and the national finals in Greensboro, N.C. He placed in the top 100.

His specialties are the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle, with records of 21.75 seconds and 48.84 seconds, respectively.

As a team member for the Greensburg Salem Lions and Greensburg Y Stingrays, Yu is in the pool at six times a week. The high school team is based at the YMCA on South Maple Avenue.

“The Y program really is excellent. The coaches know what they are talking about and helped with my stroke,” said Yu, a straight-A student. He hopes to swim for his university team when he determines where he will major in biology and pre-med studies.

Susan Yakubisin, one of two head coaches at the Y, said Yu is a competitive, talented swimmer.

Other Stingrays making a mark last season include a group of 11-year-olds — Nicholas Graziano of Penn Trafford, the son of head coach Kim Graziano; Patrick Cavanaugh of Franklin Regional in Murrysville; Matt Klasnic of Greater Latrobe, and Gavin Mayo of Hempfield, Yakubisin said.

“One neat thing about the Greensburg Y Swim Team is that members are from all over and they remain friends,” Yakubisin said.

Both coaches were competitive swimmers who came up through the Y system with a strong belief in the program's principles of helping people to develop character and a sense of self-worth. The swim program emphasizes caring, honesty, respect and responsibility.

On Saturday, the Greensburg Y fielded 105 swimmers out of about 400 competitors, including the Rockfish team from Leonardtown, Md.

Thirteen YMCAs and seven Aqua Clubs were represented, said Jennifer Prohaska, the aquatic program director in Greensburg.

Children age 10 and younger competed in the morning, with 11- to-18-year-old swimmers hitting the pool in the afternoon.

“You'd be surprised at how accomplished some of the young swimmers are,” Prohaska said.

A youngster can compete on the team when he or she can swim at least one pool length without assistance.

Hundreds of kids who are not on the team take swimming lessons at the pool, which is open from 5:30 a.m. until the final adult swim ends at 9:15 p.m.

“We do have a good many kids on the team who have come up through lessons but, with so many backyard pools, coaching today is teaching the proper form of the strokes,” Yakubisin said.

Because of Michael Phelps' Olympic success, she said, more boys are swimming competitively at the local level, but girls still slightly outnumber the boys.

Saturday's invitational meet was sanctioned; swimmers' qualifying times count for state and national competition.

The overall aquatic program at the Greensburg Y offers times for adults to swim laps, sessions for babies as young as 6 months, water exercise programs for pregnant women and people recovering from surgery, and a “Happy Hinges” class geared to arthritis sufferers.

“The swimming is a large part of our organization, 15 to 20 percent of our budget, but it is just a part of what we do for the community,” said Chief Executive Officer George O'Brien.

Rose Domenick is a freelance writer.

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