Leader Blues

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

SPORTS >> Santiago’s more than swimmers to Cabot

BY JASON KING
Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: Jared, James and John Santiago are decorated swimmers for the Cabot Piranhas, but offer much more to their town.

The Santiago brothers of Cabot are a part of the fastest-growing sport in the area, competitive swimming. Two of the three brothers are currently members of the Cabot Piranhas Central Arakansas Swim League team, and also swim for the Little Rock Dolphins USA league team.

Oldest brother Jared, 16, swam for the Piranhas and Dolphins the last three years, but is currently on what he refers to as a ‘temporary retirement’. He took this summer off from swimming to seek employment, and to prepare for a hiking adventure in New Mexico later this summer.

The middle brother, James, 14, is the most accomplished of the talented trio. He has reached gold-level times in every category within his age group, and has put down times that are comparable to swimmers in higher age brackets.

The youngest, John, 11, is a gold-level swimmer in every category except for the butterfly, which he holds a silver time.

James and John have already taken part in two CASL meets for the Piranhas this summer, with strong results in the first meet, but less-than-satisfactory results in the last meet at Lonoke.

“This year has been going good, except for the last meet,” John said. “I think I just had an off day.”

“There were several good swimmers there; we knew they were going to give John a run for his money,” Jared added.

For the Santiagos, swimming is a big part of their lives, but doesn’t hold a candle to their interest in their community. They also participate in the Boy Scouts, and attend Cabot United Methodist Church. The brothers also take part in community cleanups in the area.

Jared is currently taking part in vacation Bible school in the mornings, while James and John are practicing hard for the Piranhas’ next meet. Among other hobbies, the boys enjoy role-playing video games and paintball.

Though well-rehearsed in the art of being kids, the boys are also tuned in to their futures. Jared has narrowed his college interests down to the University of Arkansas or Texas A & M, with an interest in dentistry.

James also wants to pursue the medical field as a pediatrician, and has his heart set on the possibility of becoming an Aggie as well.

Even young John has a sense of what he might want to do upon high school graduation. He says he would like to major in science and become a scientist.

All three have the grades to easily pursue those fields. Jared and James being members of the Honor Society at CHS.

For two teenage boys and one pre-teen, the Santiagos have a wonderful repose with each other. While most siblings fight for attention, and sometimes just to be fighting, the boys prefer to take light-hearted verbal jabs at each other. John catches the majority of the teasing being the youngest, but takes it all in stride with a big smile, and even the occasional comeback.
“He doesn’t have much of an option but to take it,” Jared said jokingly. “He’s the youngest, so he’s our main target.”

The Santiagos have lived in the Cabot area for 11 years now. Their father, Frank, is retired from the Air Force. Their mom, Melissa, is a pharmacist at the V.A. in Little Rock. Frank relocated the family to Cabot from Virginia, after a brief stay in Arkansas before that.

Among reasons that swimming has been beneficial to them, Jared lists discipline and focus. James says he likes it for its strength building, and because “it’s just fun to win.” John says he likes swimming with his friends from school, and meeting new friends from other schools at the swim meets.

Debbie Skidmore has been coach of the Santiagos since they joined up with the Piranhas. Skidmore spoke highly of the boys’ work ethic, and love of the sport.

“I’ve seen them have a passion for swimming,” Skidmore said. “They are very good at keeping their focus, you never have to tell them anything twice. They have that inner drive, and they know what is expected of them.”

The boys’ mottos sum up their feelings about swimming and their desire for improvement. John says, “Hard work always pays off,” and James’ creedo is: “Even if you win, try harder next time.”

If you attend a Central Arkansas Swim League meet this summer, chances are there will be a Santiago brother there, waiting for their turn to dive into the lane and compete.