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Gustafson biding time to Masters event; numerous records broken

by Rob Peirce

SPORTS WRITER

Amidst all of the 445 swimmers from 15 teams, coaches, officials, parents and fans at this year's Stealey Invitational, there is one man who has to do some dirty work while keeping things clean -- Stealey pool manager Jeremy Gustafson.

He keeps himself stationed among the hosting Stealey camp, lined with several tents next to the concession stand -- right where most of the messes occur.

Gustafson volunteered for the job nine months ago. It keeps him busy, because at age 19, he's over the age limit and can't compete in the regular invitational. But he'll be competing in the Masters race today.

"(The invitational) is a lot of fun," Gustafson said. "It's good for everybody, and it's good for the pool. It's a big public event."

The highlight of the weekend is just being together with so many different swimmers, he said.

"This brings everybody here from all these different counties for one big event," Gustafson said. "Everybody likes to compete, and it gives you something to do."

But Gustafson's job gets difficult when the pool grounds begin to get messy. Luckily, Saturday went smoothly for him, he said.

"The hardest part is keeping the place clean and picking up everybody's garbage," Gustafson said. "I don't like cleaning up messes."

n n n

In the first day of action Saturday, 25 records were broken in 106 events and 317 heats. Officials say this is the largest number of records broken in recent memory.

Several of those records were broken by Stealey swimmers, who won last year's title.

"They've had some good heats," Stealey co-coach Melanie Sprenger said. "A lot of the kids have qualified in things they didn't think they were going to qualify in, and they were pleasantly surprised."

Several Stealey swimmers have a shot at winning individual titles, Sprenger said.

"It's pretty tight," she said. "It will all come down to the finals (today). The relays will probably determine the championship.

"The competition is wonderful; we have more swimmers than we've ever had. There are a lot of good, close races, and most of the races have been separated by less than a second. That's fun to watch."

The record number of participants is because of the addition of two new teams -- Elkins and Bridgeport Country Club.

Despite the fact that Stealey won the championship last year and is swimming in its home pool, that doesn't necessarily give it any advantages today, Sprenger said.

"If we repeat as defending champions this year, it will be because we have a lot of very dedicated and talented swimmers," she said.

Sports writer Rob Peirce can be reached at 626-1444.

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