A Payson swimmer is one step closer to his Olympic goal after medaling five times at the Junior Olympics in Houston.
Garret Chance may only be 12, but he is already making a name for himself after two years of competitive swimming.
At the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) games in July, Garret placed in the top five in seven races and set several personal best records.
Garret took home the gold in the 200-meter freestyle, shaving 12 seconds off his best time.
Garret’s mother, Cheryl Chance, said she was pleasantly surprised at Garret’s performance at the Junior Olympics.
“He did much better than I expected him to,” she said.
The 200-meter race was a real nail-biter, she said. The crowd couldn’t tell who had won.
In the 400-meter freestyle, Garret earned silver, trimming 18 seconds off his personal best.
Garret also placed third in the 100-meter backstroke, 50-meter backstroke and 100-meter breaststroke.
In the 100-meter freestyle and 50-meter freestyle, Garret took fifth.
Out of eight events, Garret was only disqualified from one.
Garret was not the only Payson swimmer to do well at the AAU.
Fellow Team Neptune member Emily Giarrizzo, 12, also took home medals in seven of eight events, beating four personal best times.
Giarrizzo placed fourth in 100-meter breaststroke, 200-meter individual medley, 50-meter breaststroke, 100-meter butterfly and 100-meter free stroke, seventh in the 50-meter freestyle, eighth in the 50-meter butterfly and 10th in the 50-meter backstroke.
Nine swimmers in all from Team Neptune made the journey to Houston to compete with hundreds of other swimmers from across the country.
This was Garret’s first time competing out of state and only his second year swimming competitively.
Garret’s family offered their support by taking a road trip to Houston to cheer him on, said Cheryl, who owns Colorz Salon.
While Cheryl initially wondered how Garret would respond in the competitive atmosphere in Houston, his stellar performance surprised all.
“He was a completely different kid and athlete there,” she said. “You could tell he knew it was the next level.”
Cheryl said Garret takes swimming very seriously and has set a goal of making it to the Olympics.
Garret swims all year-round with Team Neptune, a Scottsdale-based swimming group.
Local swimmers practice four to five days a week at the Tonto Apache pool and in the Valley.
“He just loves it,” Cheryl said.
Cheryl said Garret’s trip to the AAU could not have happened without the support of Sears, which donated swimming supplies, and local residents who bought fund-raising bracelets.