First time for everything: YMCA hosts Special Olympics swim team for the first time

Published 10:11 pm Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Austin YMCA gave a few athletes the chance to learn a little bit about competitive swimming this season as it had a Special Olympics Swim Team for the first time in Mower County history.

The team, which competed in the state meet in St. Paul this past weekend, had athletes ranging from eight-years-old to 26-years-old and it mixed typically developed swimmers from the Aqua Pack alongside swimmers with disabilities.

The Austin YMCA started a Special Olympics swiming team this season. The team includes, back row, left to right: Justice Barnes and Jacob Reisnour; front row: Abbie Boyson, Ella Diaz, Amythyst Kretler and Ella Riley. Not pictured: Lucy Annis, Madellane Hicks, Alyana Jovaag, Carleigh Rymer and Carson Rymer. Rocky Hulne/

Aquatics Director Tracey Christiansen said the first year was a success and she’s hoping there are more Special Olympics sports in store for the YMCA in the future.

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“It’s been a little bit of learning as we go, but the community’s been excited about the whole process,,” Christiansen said. “I know the Y is interested in maybe offering other sports for kids in the coming years as well.”

The team began practicing in March and it featured five swimmers with disabilities and seven typically developed swimmers.

The team blended well throughout the year and the swimmers had a lot of fun while competing in the water.

Abbie Boyson swims at the Austin YMCA during a practice recently. Rocky Hulne/

“We’ve had kids who don’t know how to swim at all and we’ve got kids that were on the Aqua Pack swim team and know how to swim already,” Christiansen said. “We kind of started with the basics and we taught them all four competitive strokes, the freestyle, the backstroke, the breaststroke and the butterfly.”

While swimming can be a tough sport that requires a lot of endurance, the team gave it their all on a daily basis.

“They’ve had some learning curve and we’ve tried to figure out their abilities so they’re learning to their full abilities,” Christiansen said.