By Jay Young
Between high school teams and local development programs, the Southern Tier provides plenty of options for local athletes when it comes to swimming and diving.
Allie Stockwell of Jamestown claimed a first-place finish in the 100 freestyle in the 12-13 age group at the Pennsylvania YMCA?State Swim Championships recently. She also placed sixth in the 200 free and ninth in the 200 individual medley.
Allie Stockwell, third from left, stands atop the podium after winning the 100 freestyle in the 12-13 age group at the Pennsylvania YMCA?State Swim Championships.
One of those options is the Jamestown Jets, an amateur team that focuses on improving local swimmers and competes in the Northwest Pennsylvania YMCA League.
"The team goes back to 1931,'' Coach Jason Chinni said. ''Over the years, it has swam for New York and Pennsylvania leagues. We currently swim in the Northwest Pennsylvania League because it's faster than the New York League.''
The Jets have a storied team history that stretches back more than 80 years, and so far this year seventh-grader Allie Stockwell of Jamestown has made as big a splash as anyone.
Stockwell has been with the Jets since she was 7 and her rise to success has been an impressive one.
What started off as a weekend recreation for Stockwell has turned into a competitive passion.
"Well, when I started doing it I knew that I wanted to stick with it. I just love to be in the water," she said.
This season Stockwell claimed a first-place finish in the 12-13 age group at the Pennsylvania YMCA State Swim Championships at Penn State University in the 100 freestyle with a time of 55.02.
She also placed sixth in the 200 free (2:02.66) and ninth in the 200 individual medley (2:22.71) during the championships.
"To give you an idea of what she has done, our championship league meet was a few weeks before states and she swam that race (100 free) at a 58.12,'' Chinni said. ''Then at our district meet she swam a 55.89, so we had really good expectations, but she still wasn't a number one seed.
See STOCKWELL, Page C2
From Page C1
"The time she actually went at the (state) meet she dropped .87 seconds in two weeks, so she exceeded expectations quite a bit."
That may be an understatement.
Not only did Stockwell do better than anyone had anticipated, but her times also represent a huge amount of improvement over a small period of time.
In her first trip to the state championships, Stockwell wasn't immediately on top of the podium, but that just makes her recent victory all the more enjoyable.
"The first year she went (to states) was when she was 9. She made it into one event as the last seed, and came last in her one event, but that let her know that she wanted to keep aspiring to win," said Marty Stockwell, Allie's father. "That first year really helped drive her.''
When she started swimming for the Jets in October 2009, Stockwell was a far cry from her current championship times. At just 7, she managed the 50 free in 41.47, which is 14 seconds faster than her current 100 free time.
"We started off at a young age because she always liked the water, doing one of those swim with mom and dad programs," Marty recalle. "At seven years old she decided to join the swim team. Jason had approached us and thought it was a good idea. She's just naturally progressed and went to the state meet and was fortunate enough to win.
Of course Stockwell hasn't just been impressive within her own age-group in the YMCA league, the seventh grader has also been busy competing for the Jamestown High School swim team as well.
After passing a state-mandated physical fitness test to be able to participate as a seventh-grader, Stockwell spent the year swimming against athletes three and four years her senior.
Swimming for Jamestown,Stockwell was more competitive than any 13-year-old has a right to be, and, of course, she is only getting better.
"I've always loved (swimming), even before I won the state meet, but when I won I saw how good I could become," Allie said.
Like so many young athletes, Stockwell also has to shoulder the burden of choosing where to focus her efforts.
Following her success at the YMCA state meet, Stockwell now spends her days playing both AAU basketball and running middle-school track for Jamestown.
Although her talent stretches far beyond swimming, she still feels most at home competing in the pool.
Next season Stockwell will be swimming in the 13-14 age group for Chinni and the Jets while she continues to pursue her interest in track and basketball.
"Definitely her focus is on swimming," her dad said. "It's her No. 1 love and her favorite sport. She never gets bored and we don't have to do whole lot to get her up and going for swim practice at 8 in the morning."