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Whalers head to AAU Junior Olympics

A total of 16 swimmers will hit the pool this week in Greensboro, North Carolina.

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Members of the Superior YMCA Whalers who will attend the 2022 AAU Junior Olympics in Greensboro, North Carolina, pose for a photo recently at the Superior Douglas County Family YMCA. Front row, from left, are Dakota Lowney, Dillan Skandel, Marc Pagnucci, Levi Raisanen, Eleanor Enslin, Gabby Anderson and Cora Enslin; back row, from left, are Aiden Pagnucci, Lucy Lane, Paolo Pagnucci, Rylee Demers and Tyler Skandel. Not pictured are Ezekiel Fish, Kaitlyn Milroy, Ella Stone and Madden Stone.
Contributed / Stefan Pagnucci
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SUPERIOR — The Superior YMCA Whalers are headed to the AAU Junior Olympics in Greensboro, North Carolina.

The event runs from Thursday, July 28 to Sunday, July 31.

The qualifying times for the meet are "pretty hard to hit," coach Stefan Pagnucci said, but every year a few more Whalers have made the cut. More than 20 swimmers qualified, with 16 able to make the trip.

They include Gabby Anderson, Rylee Demers, Cora Enslin, Eleanor Enslin, Ezekiel Fish, Lucy Lane, Dakota Lowney, Kaitlyn Milroy, Aiden Pagnucci, Marc Pagnucci, Paolo Pagnucci, Levi Raisanen, Dillan Skandel, Tyler Skandel, Ella Stone and Madden Stone.

The format of the meet will be different than what the Whalers are used to, according to Stefan Pagnucci.

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During the YMCA swimming season, participants race once in a sectional meet for their respective event and qualify for state based on their times. With Junior Olympics, Stefan Pagnucci said the swimmers will race twice — first in a preliminary heat, and then if their times are fast enough they will swim again in a final heat.

The meet falls outside the Whalers competitive season, which runs from October to February, so Stefan Pagnucci said he wants the children to have fun and enjoy the contest.

He mentioned a 2019 visit from U.S. Olympic swimmer Breeja Larson, who told the Whalers "If you have a lane, you have a chance."

"That’s kind of the mantra for the summer," Stefan Pagnucci said. "You qualified, you got a shot. You have one to two swims. See how it goes. If you make it into the finals, awesome, and if you don’t, just celebrate the fact you qualified for this meet and there are a lot of kids who would love to have that opportunity."

The event will also mark the last time Milroy and Fish swim with the squad.

"Kaitlyn I have coached since I started coaching," Stefan Pagnucci said. "And Ezekiel started swimming part way into high school and has fallen in love with the sport, so it will be an emotional celebration of the year’s accomplishments and a closing of one chapter of a swim career for those two. Both of those swimmers continue to have a significant impact on their teammates."

Jen Zettel-Vandenhouten is the regional editor for Duluth Media Group, overseeing the Cloquet Pine Journal and the Superior Telegram.
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