PHOENIX, Arizona, March 13. TODAY'S edition of The Morning Swim Show offers up a preview of next week's National Club Swimming Association's junior nationals with the organization's president, Kevin Milak.
Milak, the head coach at Tucson Ford Dealers Aquatics, talks about the evolution of the meet from a small group of teenage swimmers to its current status of grooming some of the top junior swimmers in the country. He also details the current goals of the meet and why it will continue to exist, even though USA Swimming has revitalized its junior national championships. Be sure to visit SwimmingWorld.TV for more video interviews.
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Peter Busch: This is The Morning Swim Show for Thursday March 15th 2012. I'm your host Peter Busch. In the FINIS monitor today we'll talk to Kevin Milak. He's the head coach at Tucson Ford Aquatics and the president of the National Club Swimming Coaches Association. Kevin joins us right now in the FINIS monitor from Tucson, Arizona. Coach, welcome to the show. How are you?
Kevin Milak: Good. Good morning, Peter.
Peter Busch: We wanted to have you on before this NCSA Junior Meet in Orlando coming up this weekend. We'll be there. We're going to be covering it for Swimming World TV. Tell us about this meet.
Kevin Milak: This will be our 10th year. This is our 10th anniversary. We did our first meet at Long Beach in March of 2002. We had basically kind of started cold start just about January 1st of 2002, small collection of coaches in Phoenix and then basically spread word of mouth and 11 weeks later we had a meet.
Peter Busch: Has it always been in Orlando?
Kevin Milak: No, we went through the first spring one we did in Long Beach and then after that we had moved to Orlando and we've been there ever since.
Peter Busch: Was this sort of a move because USA Swimming sort of phased out Spring Juniors?
Kevin Milak: Very much so. Bob Gillette, who is my mentor who I worked with for about five or six years in Phoenix, we were getting started with all this. Bob had based his program around developing through Junior Nationals, so when that went away in the early 2000s and there was no spring and no summer juniors for a number of years there were a number of coaches that just felt like they needed it. So it was basically born out of a need and it just grew and grew and grew from 275 swimmers that first March in Long Beach and then we've actually grown — our biggest meet was two years ago, I think we were just over 1600.
Peter Busch: How many do you expect this year?
Kevin Milak: Right now team commitments and everybody that we've talked to we're getting somewhere in the mid-1400s.
Peter Busch: Is that pretty good for you guys? Are you happy with that?
Kevin Milak: Oh yes and it's kind of a cross section of with our format of being a four and a half day meet starting on Tuesday afternoon with timed finals and then going to prelim-finals Wednesday through Saturday. That's about our sweet spot for that size facility and with how big the meet can handle with timelines and such so even with 1400, 1500 swimmers we can start at 9, normally we're always done a little after noon, kids get a nice break between prelims and finals and they come back and swim fast at night.
Peter Busch: Is it a fast meet?
Kevin Milak: Yes, the past couple of years it's gotten much, much faster. In the first couple of years it's gotten better and better and better. In the last couple of years it's been pretty close to having to make senior national times to make that top 16 to top 24. So it's been getting deeper and deeper and faster and faster from on the top end.
Peter Busch: Wow. I think I saw that it was prelims in yards, finals in meters.
Kevin Milak: Yes, we've done this a couple of times in 2008 and it was just a great success. The coaches loved it, the kids tried to make Trials obviously for the summer, it's a great opportunity for us as a club and I know for a lot of other teams who are in the same boat. If it's having to choose from having to go to a sectional meet that's straight long course like ours is here on the west coast or a lot of the other ones that are just straight short course you're forced to kind of pick and choose. So to be able to take all of our senior kids in our group that are qualified, to be able to give them a championship meet and be able to go together as a team it goes a long way. And your kids that have now made the cuts that Olympic Trials are probably a little off their radar right now they still get to have a short course championship meet tapered swim at the end of the season and get those yard times and then those kids going for Trials can get up and see what they can do at night.
Peter Busch: I haven't honestly talked to my dad about this specific issue since he became National Team Director for USA Swimming but I'm curious have you guys had conversations with them about the future of your meet, would they like to get back into spring juniors, and what is the future?
Kevin Milak: No, we're feeling we've always had a good relationship with USA Swimming. Over the years we've always had a really, really strong supporting presence from everyone in Colorado Springs between – we were one of the first meets to use the online meet entry system, I kind of helped set that all up with Susan and Larry up there and it was a great learning experience and it was very awesome to be a part of it. And all of the coaches reps and all the team support, the club support people, the Dave Thomases of the world and they would always be coming out, they're always out and showing up at our meets and hanging out and being with coaches and I always felt that there was a good working relationship. There hasn't been really any talks of USA Swimming taking over and any of that kind of stuff. We'd obviously love the support. The coaches and the programs that have really supported this program, every year we have somewhere in the neighborhood of 250-ish clubs. They really love this format, they love where it is, they love the time standards, and there's a lot of people that really like the way that it's set up and they obviously don't feel like sectionals is meeting what their team needs or something else so one of our biggest things in USA Swimming is diversity between what one club might need is going to be very, very different than what another club might meet and just giving those club coaches the options to go and support their senior groups and their whole programs with what's going to serve them best.
Peter Busch: How is Tucson Ford Aquatics these days? That was the team that I used to swim for many, many years ago and I know a lot has changed, but how are things?
Kevin Milak: Tucson Ford is good. We just got back two nights ago. We just finished our senior champs up in Mesa. We won that for our senior kids. The kids swam just awesome across the board, new sectional qualifiers, new junior national qualifiers, new senior national qualifiers so at every level the kids swam great.
Peter Busch: When will you put this in the next crop of Wildcats?
Kevin Milak: We'll see. We have a lot of great kids coming up the pipe and then we have somewhere in the neighborhood of about 10 to 12 kids going off to D1 programs this year. No Wildcats this coming year. There are a number of kids on the U of A team that I've worked with in the past years, age group versus senior swimmers and we definitely want to keep that pipeline open. There are definitely a couple of them that have had U of A on the radar and have a couple of weekends kind of penciled in for recruiting trips hopefully and we'll see how it goes.
Peter Busch: Speaking of Wildcats how's your wife? A lot of people don't know Kevin is married to former All-American Emily Mason.
Kevin Milak: She's great. We have our two-year-old daughter Ivy. Ivy was born two years ago, a couple of days before Christmas, and she was the biggest reason for the move back to Tucson here – my wife Emily's whole family is in Arizona, the majority of her family being here in East Tucson, all the aunties and uncles and her parents up in Phoenix so it was like came in time with having a baby girl, we're going either to Florida with my family or Arizona with hers and it all worked out great. Emily's been getting back in and doing masters a couple of times a week and just surprised the heck out of everybody every time she shows up in a meet. I think she went through and I think she was just off senior nationals last summer and 100fly at the master's state meet and it was just one of those things of just having a kid, having a baby, and then trying to get back into fitness shape. I don't see her really going back to full blown competing. She really enjoys it, it's kind of a nice thing, it's kind of her thing and a new crop of friends to go and hang out with in the morning.
Peter Busch: Don't you know these days you have to wait until you're 40 before you can set your comeback?
Kevin Milak: Yes, Emily's not there yet, she'll be turning 30 here later this year.
Peter Busch: Well tell her we say hi.
Kevin Milak: I certainly will.
Peter Busch: Well Kevin thanks a lot for joining us. Good luck in Orlando.
Kevin Milak: Thank you Peter.
Peter Busch: That's Kevin Milak joining us in the FINIS monitor from Tucson. That's it for today's show. I'm Peter Busch reminding you to keep your head down at the finish.
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