By BRODY FELDMANN
For the second consecutive year, Yukon’s Aydan Howard competed in the Junior Olympics swimming competition against the best-of-the-best in the United States.
“It is exciting. I love watching him swim and the thrill that he gets out of it. He is pursuing what he wants to do. So, it is always a thrill when a parent gets to watch their kid do something they love and grow in a sport,” Bryan Howard, Aydan’s father, said.
Aydan’s mother, Stasha, also traveled with him and Bryan to Greensboro, North Carolina, for the three-day event.
“Oh my gosh. It is very exciting. It’s different than swimming at home in the meets that we swim at normally. We got to meet a lot of people in the swimming world,” Stasha said.
Last year, Howard returned to Oklahoma with 11 awards, five bronze medals and six top-16 finishes in 13 events.
“It was really good,” Aydan said. “I had a lot of fun competing and being able to be there and help support my team.”
This year, Howard competed in 10 events but had to jump into the 15- to 18-year-old age group and faced some tougher competition.
“It is definitely hard knowing that he is going into a tougher age group. And as a mom you know it is going to be tougher, but you don’t want to say, ‘You are going to have a hard time.’ You just want to encourage him and have fun because you know you have to go through these changes,” Stasha said. “That is a big difference in body development in that age group.”
Despite facing tougher competition, Howard finished with four top-16 finishes.
“I thought I was good. I wasn’t as good as I hoped. I didn’t make the finals in everything, but I knew that was going to be difficult because I had just aged up. Just being able to go there was good for me,” Aydan said.
He finished ninth in the 400-medley relay; 13th in the 200-medley relay and 400-medley relay and 15th in the 200-freestyle relay.
Aydan’s parents said they were proud of how he competed against the older and more mature swimmers.
Aydan plans to take what he learned over the weekend while competing against older swimmers to push himself to become an even better swimmer.
“Satisfaction I guess is probably the best word for it. As a parent, you always strive for your kids to do what they want to do and when they want to do it. So, when they are actually doing it, it gives you that feeling of satisfaction that they have accomplished what they want to,” Bryan said.
Aydan said he likes being challenged.
“It really helps, and it is just good to be able to challenge other people. In Oklahoma, we have the same teams every year and every meet. So, it is good to get out there and swim against these other people that are really good,” Aydan said.
The family said several local businesses helped make their trip possible, including Goose’s Garage, Poage Eyecare, MyTees Design, Yukon National Bank and Grady’s 66.
“It is awesome to have that opportunity. There are some parents who don’t get that opportunity to get to go see their kids do what they love and excel in. So, be able to travel with him and be able to watch him is the greatest experience of all,” Bryan Howard said.