There are many unique competitors and storylines in the USA Swimming South Carolina State Championships that began Friday and continue through Monday at the Rock Hill Aquatics Center.
One of the more compelling, and of local interest, is the story of the Keller twins. Brandon and Richard Keller compete in the 10-and-under division for the Rock Hill Ryas and are both very good at what they do. They are seeded first and second in the 50-meter backstroke, while Brandon is also first in the 50-meter breastroke with a time he said was five seconds better than any other swimmer.
Saturday, Brandon won the 100-meter breastroke state title and achieved AAAA status with a time that was two seconds better than his previous best personal time. He was also first in the 50-fly.
One of their coaches, Susan Snyder, says one of the qualities that make both of these boys so successful is that they have such positive attitudes. She said they are both very hard-working and happy kids who also make great teammates.
They do, however, have their differences.
Brandon has a deeper voice and even his brother says he is the better of the two. He also hopes the Olympics might one day be in his future. They have different personalities, but one thing they are completely alike in is their love for swimming, something they started when they were 6 years old.
Another interesting and charismatic young competitor at the Aquatics Center this weekend is Kenny Jeffrey. Kenny is 12 years old and loves to help the younger kids develop. He feels that helping them makes him a better swimmer himself.
"I enjoy it," Jeffrey said. "I started when I was 5, and it's fun to see other kids grow into being greater swimmers. I like to help as much as I can." Kenny is ranked among the top 10 in 12 events and is one of the major contenders in the 50-meter butterfly and 100-meter individual medley. He is one of the highest ranked swimmers in the state.
Izzi Woodard competes in the 11-12 year old division. Her favorite events are the 100- and 200-meter breastroke. Snyder says that even though Izzi is only 4 feet, 9 inches tall, she seems like she's 13 or 14 because she's not intimidated because of her size. Izzi says the self-confidence comes from her swimming since she was 6 years old. "I try to just ignore the height and act like they are the same size as me," said Izzi. "Just because I'm short doesn't mean I can't go fast."
Brandon Sweezer qualified for the most events on the team at 17. He almost made AAA Friday night in one event, just missing it by one-tenth of a second. Saturday, he tried for AAA status in the 200-meter freestyle and ended up placing second. Brandon's little brother David, who is 10, qualified for his first state meet in three attempts.
Another young lady, who according to Snyder has really stepped up this year, is Leanna Martin. She competes in the 11-12 year old division, but she, like Woodard, seems more advanced for her age. Snyder says Leanna stays calm, but just blows away the competition. Snyder also says Leanna is sweet, but very competitive.
"I just get out there and do my best," said Leanna.
For complete results, please visit the team's Web site at swimrays.com.