Kirk sisters inspire young swimmers

While it’s been years since Tara and Dana Kirk swam with the Olympic Aquatic Club, their bid for Olympic gold has inspired a wave of enthusiasm among the club’s young swimmers.

Jessie James, 10, of Seabeck spent the past week in Long Beach, Calif., and watched as the sisters made history. The trip with her mom, dad, little sister Corey and grandma was a belated Christmas gift.

“It was awesome, I actually saw someone I know go to the Olympics,” James said in a phone interview Tuesday from Long Beach. “I feel motivated and inspired.”

James admits she was a little star struck when standing next to Tara while having her photo snapped. But why wouldn’t she be a tad nervous? Tara and Dana are Bremerton legends.

James, an OAC swimmer for the past three years, has seen the Kirks’ records — some as old as she is — remain unbeaten.

But it only makes her swim harder.

“I always think, ‘I can do this. I can beat these,’ ” said James, whose favorite event is the backstroke.

OAC coach Bonnie Burmaster, the Kirks’ childhood coach for three years, rattled off the list of accomplishments.

About a third of the way through, she gave up and gave the totals. In the 11-14 age bracket Dana set 24 club records and Tara set two in the 9-12 age bracket.

The records are posted in the Olympic Aquatic Center at Olympic High where the team trains.

“They still look up at those records and they want to beat Dana,” Burmaster said.

And after the summer games are over, Burmaster expects the club will fill with young Olympic hopefuls.

“I can almost guarantee come September my phone’s message machine will be full,” Burmaster said.

“(Tara and Dana) have just really brought this whole town together.”

Mark James hoped the trip to the Olympic swim trials would further fuel his daughter’s own swimming talents.

“This was a kid who was so afraid of water she didn’t even like showers,” he said.

But because they own a home near water, swim lessons were a must. There were no visions of grandeur, thoughts Jessie would be a competitive swimmer, or that they would witness the split second Tara and Dana became Olympians.

And if the sisters bring home the gold?

“I’ll be talking about it for weeks and weeks,” James said.

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