Moving anxiously through the staging area, swim cap on, goggles in hand, a few deep sighs to keep the nerves at bay, you stare your competitors down and step timidly but confidently onto the dive board, toes behind the line, ready for the starter to begin the race.
This was the scene for over 1,000 youth competitors at the final competition of the LA84 Foundation’s Summer Splash Series held at the Santa Clarita Aquatic Center on Saturday.
Children of all ages had the opportunity to compete in two of Foundation’s target disciplines, competitive swimming and synchronized swimming, according to Anne-Marie Jones, LA84 Vice President of Grants and Programs.
“Summer Splash is our best example of play fun” said Jones. “Our motto is play for all. Whatever sport it is that a child really wants to try out, get familiar with or to master, that’s what we’re about.”
And Santa Clarita, says Jones, is a vital component in ensuring that these goals are met.
The Aquatic Center is one of only 2 venues within the Greater Los Angeles region that is capable of hosting such a large event – the only other being the internationally renowned Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
“Santa Clarita has done a great job of partnering with us” said Jones, who emphasized the critical logistical role the city plays in making the festival feasible.
For the more than 1,000 individuals who would take to the pool on Saturday, this goal of friendly competition had been made possible.
Teams from all over Southern California – Long Beach, San Fernando, Glendale, Santa Monica, and countless others – lined the steep hills alongside the facility’s two main pools to wait for their chance to compete.
“We wanted to give the kids the experience of competing against kids from outside our community” said Edita Asiryan, coach of the Glendale Gators swim team.
The Gators brought 12 athletes to compete and Asiryan’s fellow coach, Mrrik Noubarentz, echoed her sentiments about the benefits afforded to their athletes by the event.
The competitors, mostly adorned in LA84 t-shirts, ran back and forth between the facility’s two main pools to watch their friends and teammates race and compete in synchronized events.
“Sport has transformational powers and there’s lifelong positive impacts from kids competing” said Jones.
“The more we can get kids to participate, the better it is for all of us in our community.”