Local swimmers have Olympic sized dreams

By WEEK Reporter

August 1, 2012 Updated Aug 1, 2012 at 10:25 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill -- The Americans are currently leading the gold medal count in Olympic swimming.

As Michael Phelps and his teammates gear up for more chances to add to that number, some local swimmers are keeping their eyes on the prize too.

It's not an Olympic sized pool, but that doesn't stop big goals from racing through these competitive swimmers' minds. 

Practices for the Peoria Area Water Wizards, or PAWW, are heating up because of what is happening halfway around the world.

"I've changed a lot of my goals since I've been watching the Olympics, because I want to go to the 2016 Olympics," said Mya Brooks.  "So, I'm trying my hardest to make it there."

For 15-year-old Caitlin Ahern, it's what the Olympians do when they are out of the water that motivates her.

"I just like to watch them behind the blocks and how they handle themselves, because they have so much poise," Ahern said.  "It's something to really learn from, because I get really nervous, and I know a lot of kids do."

An Olympic year gets more than just PAWW swimmers inspired.  The head coach says enrollment is usually three percent  to five percent new swimmers.  This year, he expects up to 10 percent.  That could translate to about 20 names added to the 200 member roster, after registration this month.

"Kids that are typically playing baseball and basketball, they see swimming on TV, and they consider that an option," said PAWW Head Coach RJ Greseth.

That is exactly what 17-year-old Andy Cooper did.

"I had been playing football and other sports all throughout high school, and I decided since it's my senior year to put it all into swimming," Cooper said.  "I would like to be a college swimmer.  That's my goal, Division 1 swimming."

Former PAWW swimmer Matt Elliott made it to this year's Olympic Trials.  Coach says if these athletes keep working hard, they too could find themselves in bigger pools.