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Stealey meet record from 1967 tumbles

by Mike Nutter

SPORTS WRITER

CLARKSBURG -- Eight-year-old Olivia Ross was just doing what came naturally to her every summer day.

This one afternoon, however, would change decades of the Stealey Invitational's history.

Ross set a new record in the 7- and 8-year-old 25 meter breaststroke which had stood nearly since the meet's inception. Ross' time of 23.17 seconds in Friday's preliminaries broke the previous record set in 1967 by Tappan Williams. It had been the oldest record on the books at the Stealey Invitational.

"I thought I could beat it today," Ross said. "Actually, my dad (Bill) told me I had a good chance to. I've actually swam faster. I think my best time is 20-something. I still give myself an 'A'."

Actually, Ross' personal record is 21.7, which she still has a chance for at today's finals.

"It's possible. If I was capable of it (Friday), I'm capable of it Saturday. It doesn't matter to me, though. I've got it now."

Williams, now Tappan Squires, was in attendance with three children competing. She had never met Ross prior to Friday's competition, but was one of the first to congratulate her on her accomplishment.

Squires admits to checking the heat sheet, which seeds the swimmers according to times, and said she figured her mark may finally fall.

"Yeah, I have to admit, I check it every year," Squires said. "I pretty much knew this would be the year it happened.

"To tell you the truth, though, I don't even remember doing it because it seems that long ago. It was only the third year of the Stealey Invitational, so records were just being kept. I had no idea it would stay that long."

John Molle of Lake Floyd now has the longest standing record with his performance in the 7-8 50 meter breaststroke in the 1968 Invitational.

But the 25 meter breaststroke wasn't the only record to fall at the hands of Ross. She also set a new mark in the 50 breast with a time of 53.3.

"That's actually my favorite event because I'm in the water longer," Ross said.

It was a homecoming for Ross, who attended Nutter Fort Elementary, but has lived in Richmond, Va. for the past two weeks after her father was transferred there.

Olivia, her father and mother, Kim, made it in for another Stealey Invitational.

"It was nice to come back," Olivia said. "We're leaving Sunday, but it was nice to see a lot of my friends again."

The event began with the procession of swimmers and the presentation of the Chris Sprenger Award, given to one member of each competing team. This year's winners were Shelby Chapman (Buckhannon Swim Club), Camille Leon (Fairmont Aquatic), Alyssa Larry (Shinnston), Codi Lamb (Barbour County), Whitney Rhodes (Bridgeport Country Club), Hannah Smith (Doddridge County), Matthew Csonka (Bridgeport Swim), Dylan Fletcher (Elkins), Lindsay Clovis (Morgantown United Aquatic), Ronnie Fazzini (Stealey), Sara Cover (Fairmont Aquatic Club), Luke Dyer (Clarksburg Country Club) and Heather Turner (Quiet Dell).

"Everything went really well," Stealey Swim Team president Martha Levine said. "Fortunately the weather cooperated, we didn't have any false starts and everything just went pretty smoothly.

"Olivia Ross set a record which had stood for a very long time, so it was a pretty exciting afternoon."

The meet will begin at 9 a.m. today with some remaining heat races and finals. The Stealey Piranhas are the defending champions.

Sports writer Mike Nutter can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at mnutter@exponent-telegram.com