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Four Sharks to make trek to Junior Olympics

The Toppenish AAU swim meet held earlier this month proved profitable for the Sunnyside Sharks squad.

The club qualified several swimmers for the National Junior Olympics set for next week in Tennessee and, this Sunday, four of them will make the trip.

They range in experience from 17-year-old Katie Knee making her fourth trip to Nationals to 10-year-old Alex Perez, the youngest of the group who is making his first trip.

"I think it's going to be fun," says Perez, who added that he plans to visit some of the historic places in the Nationals' host city of Knoxville, Ten.

Along with the fun, Perez hopes to place in the top four in his age category at the nationwide swim meet. Perez will compete in breaststroke, freesyle and backstroke events.

Knee will compete in the 200 backstroke, 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle, 100 backstroke and the IM. Knee has medaled in the past at Nationals, with her highest finish coming with fourth-place honors in a mixed relay.

Knee said the top eight finishers in each age group event earn a medal and the next eight after that a ribbon.

Her trip to Nationals this year will be a bit bittersweet since it will be her last time to travel with the Sunnyside swimmers. This fall the 2007 SHS grad will attend Pacific Lutheran University and compete on the school's varsity team. Knee plans to compete at Nationals again next year, since she will still be within the meet's age restrictions.

Knee will have some competition from an unexpected source at Nationals next week in the form of Shark teammate Kaitlyn Broersma, 16, who will compete against Knee in the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle and the IM. "It'll be fun," Broersma said of the friendly competition.

Broersma said she hopes the Nationals experience will help her to improve on her times. "Hopefully they'll push me to do better," she said.

Brad Luff, 14, will compete at Nationals in the 100 and 200 breaststroke, 100 freestyle, 50 freestyle, 100 butterfly and IM.

"I want to medal," Luff smiled. "I want to make it in the top eight."

All four Shark swimmers said they are looking forward to meeting new people at Nationals, as each age group will have anywhere from 80 to 100 competitors from around the country.

The competition will be tough, but whether they place or not Perez is confident that he and his Shark teammates will enjoy the experience.

"I want to come back with high spirits and smile!" he laughed.

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