Looking Back: The 2017 Epic Santa Barbara Summer Trip

March 31, 2019

In the Summer of 2017, 40 athletes from the Race Swami swim program had the experience of a lifetime when they earned the right to compete at the 2017 Semana Nautica Invitational swim meet in Santa Barbara, California. The event was held on July 1st and 2nd, 2017. The team traveled with three Swami coaches and six chaperones, marking this as the first out-of-state team trip for the program. The Santa Barbara meet presented many “firsts” for several Swamis— the first time on an airplane, the first time visiting California, and the first time experiencing the coast.

The two-day meet was also a chance for these young Swamis to compete with swimmers from Northern, Central, and Southern California, as more than twenty teams were present at this storied invitational held at the Los Baños del Mar Pool next to the Santa Barbara Harbor for nearly 50 years. Race Swami finished an impressive 2nd overall at the swim meet.

As one Swami wrote in her journal, “We were so fortunate to be able to go on this trip to Santa Barbara! All the money we raised, all the hard work our parents put into this for us by working late nights at Jazz concession stands; the whole team working together helping us to get to Santa Barbara. It was like we were on a mission! It was an amazing trip and I’ll never forget this experience!”

As Head Coach Matt Finnigan put it, “Team trips can really engage the kids in many ways—as teammates, they grow closer with each other—something that can only achieved by traveling together. It’s also an opportunity to be more independent. Best of all—they learn so many new things while experiencing this new environment. It was a terrific trip and we accomplished a lot. I’m really proud of them and the way they handled themselves.”

Fun Facts from the Santa Barbara Team Travel Meet

  • The Swamis placed 2nd overall at the Semana Nautica Invitational. There were more than 20 swim clubs on hand at the meet.
  • The Swamis raised more than $12,000 for the trip. There were two swim-a-thons, several nights working the concession stands at Utah Jazz games, and a Chipotle Night in Sugar House.
  • The money raised went towards airfare, hotel accommodations, a chartered bus to and from LAX, and team meet fees. The Swami families paid $200 or less, depending on how much they could afford.
  • The Swamis were treated to two live bands at team dinners hosted at the La Quinta Hotel, in downtown Santa Barbara (Latin), and La Arcada Bistro (Irish folk), respectively.
  • More than 75% of the Swamis who attended the team trip had never flown on an airplane before.
  • Sand castle buckets—full of games and goodies —greeted each room of four Swamis when they arrived at the La Quinta Hotel in Santa Barbara.
  • Over the course of the two-day meet, more than 60 “duckies” were awarded to the Swamis. Rubber ducks are awarded to each heat winner in every race.
  • The Swamis toured the Old Mission Santa Barbara. Known to be the 'Queen of the Missions,' the missionary is home to the Franciscan friars and includes several spaces that cater to different services and work.
  • Swami’s Marina Gerton won the coveted ‘Semana Nautica Award’ presented each year to the top Men’s and Women’s 400 freestyler.
  • The Swamis chose Santa Barbara for it’s diversity, rich Latino history, small-town vibe,ease in getting around town, and of course— because of the storied swim meet itself.
  • Part of the agreement for this trip was that the Swamis had to leave their smartphones and electronics at home. Photos were taken the “old fashioned” way: with disposable cameras. Downtime was spent playing board games, partaking in group activities, and by socializing with each other! All these items were graciously donated by coach Dennis Erickson.

More thoughts from the Swamis from the Santa Barbara Trip

“This was much more than just traveling to a swim meet. As a team, we toured the Old Mission Santa Barbara and learned so much about early settlement along the California coast. We couldn’t take any phones or electronics, so we actually got to talk, play games, go to the beach, and just be with each other. I loved that the most! And some of us had the opportunity to tour the UCSB campus, which was a huge treat for me as I’d really like to study marine biology someday. This was by far one of my most cherished highlights in the sport of swimming and I’ll never forget it.”

“This was my first time on an airplane and also my first time traveling to California. It was the most amazing experience! I loved the swim meet and all the palm trees surrounding me as I swam. I enjoyed the beach and the waterfront. And most of all, I loved spending time with my teammates. Race Swami brings me so much joy!”

“It’s hard to describe Swami because we are so much more than a swim program. We do many meaningful things away from the pool that it’s more like a ‘life’ program for me. In Santa Barbara, we were engaged in so many fun activities, and I felt like we got the opportunity to really grow as a team and experience amazing new opportunities together. I can’t wait to go back someday again!”