SWIMMERS AIM TO BUILD OFF MICRO GAMES

SWIMMERS AIM TO BUILD OFF MICRO GAMES

📅03 June 2015
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By Jay Leon Guerrero

After dominating the medals podium last year at the Micronesian Games, National team members representing the Guam Swimming Federation look to ride the wave, no pun intended, to the XV Pacific Games next month in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

The swimmers, with a majority of the team being teenagers, won 53 total medals. Of the 53 medals, 30 were gold.
Olympians Chris Duenas, Pilar Shimizu and Benjamin Schulte lead the all-star cast of swimmers heading to the Games.

Here is the final roster:

Chris Duenas
Tommy Imazu
Tanner Poppe
Benjamin Schulte
Jagger Stephens
Mineri Gomez
Amanda Poppe
Pilar Shimizu

Coach: Don San Agustin

“This is the fastest team I’ve ever seen in a long time,” said Duenas of the team as a unit. Duenas said that he is excited for the relay team and is anxious to see how Team Guam fares against the best in the region. “In the 100m freestyle I was the only one hitting under 53 seconds, now there are four of us coming under that time,” said Duenas. At 23-years-old, Duenas is the oldest of the group.

“I remember when they were just young swimmers,” joked Duenas. Duenas said to look for his teammates to really gun for medals this year. “Benji is doing great and Jagger is gunning for fast times.”

Shimizu more experienced, looks to break personal records

The female swimmers are only bringing three to the Games. Pilar Shimizu, Guam’s youngest Olympian (16 years at the London Games) returned for the summer to finish training with the team. “I just got back from school (John Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland) and I will be training here leading up to the Pacific Games,” said Shimizu.

Shimizu comes fresh off winning 7 Gold medals last year at the Micronesian Games in Pohnpei and looks to continue to bring her experience to the team.

Shimizu was at the last Pacific Games in New Caledonia as a young swimmer and she said she will be prepared for next month. “I was a lot younger at the first Pacific Games. I’ve learned so much in college as a swimmer, I’m a lot faster and more competitive,” said Shimizu. Shimizu will be racing in the breaststroke and freestyle events.

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Moves like Jagger

Up-and-coming speedster Jagger Cruz Stephens is the next big name to be produced by Guam Swimming. Stephens had a breakout performance in Pohnpei with 11 gold medals. Stephens recently broke the 50m freestyle record for 17-18 year olds, a record held previously by former Olympian Darrick Bollinger. Stephens looks to follow Bollinger’s footsteps and is striving to be in the Olympics one day. He hopes to produce medals in Papua New Guinea to help his chances.

“It would be an honor to represent Guam in the Olympics, I’m working to try to make the qualifying times needed to do so. I do want to swim in college as well. I graduate in 2016 and so this upcoming school year is when I hope to cement strong relationships with college coaches and ultimately sign a letter of intent to swim at a University,” said Stephens.

Amanda Poppe along with her cousin Tanner will represent Guam as well in their first Pacific Games. The Poppe cousins look to lay a platform in their young careers. “I’m very excited to travel with the team again, whenever we come back we have a lot of stories,” said Amanda Poppe.

Jagger Stephens seems to break records everywhere he goes. The young swimmer will be competing in the biggest meets yet come the Pacific Games. (photo by Jay Leon Guerrero)

Jagger Stephens seems to break records everywhere he goes. The young swimmer will be competing in the biggest meets yet come the Pacific Games. (photo by Jay Leon Guerrero)

Tanner Poppe is the future for Guam swimming at 14-years-old. He said that he’s looking forward to be on the same team as the older, more accomplished swimmers and he will do his best to represent Guam.

Both Poppe cousins won gold medals in their individual events and helped Guam to four relay golds as well. “One day, I want to represent Guam in the Olympics,” said Tanner Poppe.

14-year-old Mineri Gomez also looks to use the Pacific Games to gain experience. “I’m going to get the experience so that in the future I can perform well at a higher level,” said Gomez.

Tommy Imazu, 16, will swim in distant races for Guam and he is coming off a Cocos Crossing Race first place finish. Imazu finished first in the 2.5 mile race at the Cocos Crossing, he looks to take his confidence to the Pacific Games. “This event is a higher level and it will be more exciting,” said Imazu.

“Training has been very hard, we’ve been training in the morning and the afternoon everyday. I’m so honored to be on Team Guam, it’s an accomplishment just making the team,” said Imazu.

Schulte to train in Australia prior to the Games

Last but not least, there’s Benjamin Schulte. Schulte was on Guam, briefly, to train with the team. “I just finished my first year of college at Bryant University in Rhode Island. I came for the Guam Championships and then I’ll continue to train in Australia. After training is done in Australia, I’ll be meeting the team in Papua New Guinea for the Games,” said Schulte.

Schulte will swim his individual events as well as relays. He will look to cut his personal best times in Papua New Guinea. Schulte said that his 100m breaststroke is about a half second off from Olympic qualifying times.

“People ask me what is my best moment in swimming. Of course, the Olympic experience is up there but one of my proudest moments was on the medals stand at the last Pacific Games in New Calendonia,” said Schulte.

Schulte won a silver medal in the 1500m freestyle in Noumea, New Caledonia, at the last Pacific Games and he had an overwhelming feeling of pride on the medals stand. “Seeing your flag raised was a very proud moment for me,” said Schulte.

Benji Schulte gets ready for his meet during the weekends big swimming event. (photo by Jay Leon Guerrero)

Benji Schulte gets ready for his meet during the weekends big swimming event. (photo by Jay Leon Guerrero)

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