Commentary | Young swimmers shine against older rivals

March 25, 2014 

Two Bradenton swimmers earned the opportunity to compete on the national scene. Theodore "TC" Smith, 14, and Ryley Ober, 13, were among the youngest swimmers to qualify for the National Club Swimming Association (NCSA) Junior National Championship Meet held in Orlando, March 18-22. The swimmers are coached by Matt McNitt. PROVIDED PHOTO

Theodore "TC" Smith and Ryley Ober were among the youngest swimmers to qualify for the National Club Swimming Association's Junior National Championship meet in Orlando last weekend.

Both Bradenton swimmers train with the Sarasota Tsunami team at G.T. Bray.

Smith, 14 years old, qualified in the 200-yard backstroke, 500-yard freestyle, 1,000-yard freestyle and 1,650-yard freestyle.

Ober, 13 years old, qualified in the 100-yard backstroke and 200-yard backstroke.

Most of the competition was made up of 17- and 18-year-old participants.

Smith clocked in with the following times by event: 200-yard backstroke (1:58.14), 500-yard freestyle (4:41.02), 1,000-yard freestyle (9:35.84) and 1,650-yard freestyle (16:06.51)

Ober swam the 200-yard backstroke in 2 minutes, 7.47 seconds. She was not listed as competing in the 100-yard backstroke results.

Neither swimmer registered any top 10 finishes, but qualifying was a huge accomplishment for the pair as they raced against older juniors.

"This is a great accomplishment for them to be here," said Matt McNitt, who coaches the swimmers at G.T. Bray and is a former Division I swimmer, in a news release. "They are 13 and 14 year olds swimming against a sea of 17 and 18 year olds."

Gladiators prepare playoffs

The Bradenton Gladiators are 9-1 in the Florida Football Alliance season, and clinched the NFC Central Division title over the Orlando Rage by virtue of last week's forfeit victory over the Southwest Florida Panthers.

The Gladiators are on a bye this week, the final regular season week for clubs across the Sunshine State. Bradenton last played two weeks ago in a 17-15 victory over the Sarasota Millionaires..

The Gladiators lone loss came in a 38-20 setback to the Rage in Orlando at the beginning of March.

Bradenton's playoff opponent has yet to be determined.

Robinson Preserve 5K

The sixth annual Robinson Preserve 5K Twilight Run is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. Friday.

The event, hosted by Fit2Run, benefits Meals on Wheels Plus of Manatee. Last year's turnout reached 1,500 participants and this year is expected to have 2,000 runners competing.

The first 1,500 registered runners will receive a Robinson Preserve dry-fit shirt.

Contact Douglas Schiller at 932-6147 for more information.

Sarasota Open dates

The dates for the 2014 Sarasota Open (professional tennis) at The Tennis Gardens at Longboat Key Club have been announced.

The USTA Pro Circuit Men's Tournament is scheduled for April 12-20 and this year marks the seventh year for the tournament. The prize purse is $100,000 and provides pros with a clay tournament to prepare for the French Open.

The Joey Gratton Charity Tennis Tournament and Sarasota Open Wild Card Singles Tournament are scheduled for April 4-6 to begin the activities. Then April 12-13, the qualifying tournament is scheduled.

The tourney's main draw starts 11 a.m. April 14.

America's top-ranked player, John Isner (ranked No. 10 in the world), is scheduled to have an autograph signing session in downtown Sarasota to coincide with the tournament's main draw beginning.

A women's draw starts April 17, and the men's finals start at 4 p.m. April 20.

For more information, visit sarasotaopen.org or call 809-8996 for ticket information.

Jason Dill, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7017 or via email at jdill@bradenton.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jason__Dill.

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