Viewpoint: Claremonter travels cross-country to find home again

by Marcus Dowd

This article is not really about my kids, it’s about some other people’s kids,  but let’s start with mine.

With our son just graduated and having secured employment on the East Coast, he suddenly found himself in need of a car. With an old junker on our side of the country, my daughter and I were given permission by mom to drive said car cross-country to the boy, all adventures happening along the way to be an added bonus.

But the car wasn’t running great at the start of the trip and, as we left the Grand Canyon on Sunday, we headed straight up through Utah in order to avoid the steepest part of the Rockies, arriving in Wyoming Monday morning to have the car serviced. That done, we were now on an eastern trajectory across the bottom of Wyoming.

Meanwhile, thanks to social media, we were in contact with far more people than I used to run into when traveling cross-country years ago, pre-Internet. And so it came to pass that we learned of what was going on in Omaha—the US Olympic swimming trials. The timing, thanks to the previous series of events, meant that our arrival there would be fortuitous, as competing in those trials were not one, but two Claremonters. And siblings, no less!

Noelle Tarazona, 23, and younger brother Dylan, 21, were big stars when they attended Claremont High School, setting multiple records for the school and swimming on the Claremont Club’s TCC team. Noelle went to UCLA on a five-year, full-ride scholarship. Turns out she needed only four years to graduate, but she wanted one more run at making the Olympic team. She found a home back in Claremont, training with Pomona Pitzer’s team and Coach JP Gowdy. 

This intrepid reporter—and part-time swimmer—would occasionally find himself in the lane next to Noelle as she worked out, repeatedly lapping the rest of us who happened to be sharing the same water. So it was with special interest that I kept tabs on her progress. I found it especially intriguing to learn that her little brother would be joining her at the trials, also as a participant!

Fast forward to whichever scenario you choose to believe: A) My daughter and I were setting out on a cross-country delivery of a car to this reporter’s just-graduated son or B) COURIER Editor Kathryn Dunn learned about the Tarazona double- dip and shouted, “Get Dowd out to Omaha, pronto! Spare no expense!” Either way, things worked out as we made our way across Nebraska, arriving at the trials just in time to see Noelle’s first stab at the 200-meter individual medley. 

Seated next to Noelle’s father, John, I felt honored to witness this special experience through his eyes.

“What a great moment to see two of my kids at Olympic trials,” he said, as he pointed across the arena to where Noelle and her coach were sitting among the athletes. My reporting instincts took over and, using the tools at my fingertips, I texted Coach Gowdy from across the CenturyLink Center, looking for a juicy quote.

Social media savvy notwithstanding, this reporter happens to play softball with the coach on Wednesday nights, so I knew I had an in with Noelle’s award-winning trainer. He was recently named coach of the year, for both men and women, in the SCIAC Conference and is a new father himself, leaving family behind for a few days to accompany Noelle on her quest. 

Noelle had been working out with his team from September through March, then up to now with just the coach.

As he explains it, “I have not coached many athletes as driven as she is. The joy and relief on her face after she accomplished her goal made all those early mornings worth it.”

To add to the intrigue of connections, he had also coached my own daughter and current traveling companion.

Noelle added that training with Gowdy was “a nice change from UCLA, and what he did for me obviously worked!”

The other part of the equation was Noelle’s brother, Dylan, a rising junior at the University of Las Vegas. He qualified in the 100-meter butterfly and swam on Friday morning. Dylan, like all humble athletes, was just happy to be there.

“When I woke up that morning, the first thought that went through my head was ‘I am making the Olympic trials today.’ I kept repeating that to myself, over and over, until I was on the blocks for my race. After qualifying, I felt like everything I had put into this sport for the past 13 years had come together. Trials was my dream as a kid, and making it was nothing short of euphoria. I will never forget.”

Coach Tressa Ries of TCC had a great take on the trials, pointing out that “This meet honors all US swimmers. This is why coaches coach: to be able to coach athletes like Noelle and Dylan, who are dedicated to the sport, are humble and gracious and respect their coaches. I was able to help them realize their potential—and I got to go on the journey with them.”

Their mother Jennifer has a strong swimming background herself.

“This meet is the fastest in the world, including the Olympics, because American swimmers are so amazing. It is a huge goal for all US swimmers to make the trials. And we are so proud of Noelle and Dylan.”

Noelle swam in three events, the 200-meter individual medley and the 100- and 200-meter butterfly.  After swimming in the prelims, she qualified for the semi-finals in the 200 butterfly, ultimately finishing as the 11th best in the country.

“Noelle ended a very successful swimming career at the most exciting meet there is,” her mother said. “And placing 11th in the 200-meter butterfly capped it all off.”

There were many more coincidences of unplanned meetings with people along the rest of our trip—through Cedar Rapids, into Chicago, across Ohio and Pennsylvania—and I’d love to tell you all about them. But, like I said, this wasn’t about my kids, this was about someone else’s.




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