When you are the first to do anything it’s pretty special. It’s even more special when you accomplish that goal at the age of 14. This spring, Xan Westercamp became the first swimmer from the Ankeny Family YMCA swim team to compete at the YMCA of the USA National swim meet, April 2-3 in Greensboro, N.C. “It was a really fun experience,” Xan said. “Almost all of the swimmers were older than me so it was a little bit intimidating, but everyone was really nice.” While she didn’t come back from nationals with a title, she did quite well for a first-time participant. There are no divisions based upon age at the national meet, yet Xan finished 148th in the 100 backstroke. She also placed 15th out of 62 time trial swimmers in the 50 freestyle and 115th in the 100 butterfly in another qualifying time trial. “It’s very unusual for someone Xan’s age to go the national meet,” said Melisa Kuennen, aquatics program director at the Ankeny Y. “We were very excited to have someone represent our team at this meet.”
This isn’t the first “first” in Xan’s swimming career. She was the youngest swimmer to swim at a meet at the Riverfront Y when she competed in a race at 3 ½ years old. “Xan has always wanted to get in the water and swim. She’s just a natural talent,” Xan’s mother Cathy Westercamp said. “She used to throw her stroller over to get into the water.” Cathy Westercamp has been a long-time fixture in Y swimming in central Iowa. She has served as a coach previously at Riverfront and now at the Ankeny Y where she mentored her and other children’s swimming careers. “We spent so much time at the pool, I don’t think my children realized that the lifeguards weren’t part of our family,” she said. “That’s how integral the Y has been to us.” That connection was one of the reasons why Xan and Cathy were able to travel to Greensboro for the national meet. The pair, along with other members of the Ankeny Aquahawk swim team, had been at the MYAS Regional meet in Minneapolis the weekend prior to the national meet beginning on Monday. Travel to the national meet was expensive and after Xan qualified, Kuennen and Aquahawk Coach Ethan Johnston helped raise funds from swim team parents to defer travel expenses. And in less than two weeks, the fundraising goal was exceeded. “This was really a wonderful display by the Ankeny community,” Cathy said. “It was heartwarming to me to see the community coming together for your child.” While Xan may have attended the national meet, she’s not the only up-and-coming swimmer in the Westercamp family. Her younger brother, Noah, finished in second place in the overall individual point in his age group at the MYAS Regional swim meet March 31 and April 1. The Aquahawks had 27 out of the 65 regional qualifying swimmers scored individual points at the meet. Peyton Gaumer was another standout swimmer as he took first place in overall individual points for his age group.