Day 2 of the Madison All-City Swim Meet is all about the youngest of the young.

Although many high school competitors and coaches are in attendance, all of the races held Saturday were for swimmers age 10 and younger — all the way down to 6 years old.

In another tradition, coaches lined both sides of the pool, cheering while dressed in full Halloween-like costumes, to add to the joy and fun for the children — standout performers and otherwise.

One of the stars in the pool on Saturday was 10-year-old Bowen Ketarkus. Ketarkus has a common form of dwarfism, achondroplasia, which has left his limbs shorter than the average person.

But Ketarkus’ disability hasn’t stopped him — not only from competing with his local peers, but winning races and setting records at national events.

Bowen’s father, Joe Ketarkus, said the condition definitely affects him as a swimmer. “He’s got different balance in the water, much less propulsion (and) his kicks are weaker. But with that being said, it’s really good for people with dwarfism because it’s low-impact. He hasn’t let it stop him in any way.”

Ketarkus won four medals and set a few records in the process at the 2018 Junior Nationals U.S. Paralympics in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He followed that performance by earning two gold medals at the 2019 competition last month in Minneapolis.

Bowen said he looks forward to the All-City Swim Meet because it’s an opportunity to make memories and have fun. “Mostly, he really loves the community and hanging out with all of his friends,” Joe Ketarkus said. “It’s like a festival.”

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The All-City meet intentionally assigns swimmers to races with swimmers who have similar previous results, maximizing the competition for competitors of all skill levels and abilities.

Bowen, a member of meet host West Side Swim Club, spends a lot of time in the pool. “It’s a fun thing to do and I just like (it),” he said.

Outside the pool, Ketarkus is just like every other 10-year old, spending his time “playing outside and reading books.”

Janis Katz, business manager of the Madison Aquatic Club, a year-round USA Swimming program, said her group works hard to make swimming as inclusive a sport as possible by making it easier for kids with disabilities to participate and simultaneously educating themselves in the world of para-swimming.

Katz said Ketarkus has “been doing awesome, he’s set national records, and he’s been a great role model for other kids.” She also invited more families who have children with disabilities to join a club and take part in the fun.

Valerie Chesnik, communications chairperson for this year’s meet, said she’d like the area’s 13 swim teams to increase their diversity by adding more people of color and swimmers with disabilities.

In the pool Saturday, Brecken Curran set the day’s only meet record in the final event of the afternoon, the boys age 8-and-younger 100-meter individual medley. His time of 1 minute, 29.13 seconds was more than two seconds ahead of the previous record. Eight pool records were set Saturday.

Abigail Frommelt of High Point was the top qualifier in two age 8-and-younger events: the 25 butterfly (:16.95) and 100 individual medley (1:29.38). Brynn Sundell of Middleton qualified first in the girls age 9-10 50 butterfly (:34.47) and 100 IM (1:17.31). Walter Billmeyer of Ridgewood qualified first in two boys age 9-10 events, the 50 backstroke (:38.97) and 100 IM (1:25.43).


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