Westport, CT, Dec. 2, 2014 – In competitive swimming, a 32-year-old record is positively ancient, a mark set by an immortal, not meant to be broken.
Don’t tell that to Jude Dequeljoe, who on Nov. 21 at the Wonders Meet at Chelsea Piers Athletic Club in Stamford, bettered the long-standing record to claim it as his own.
Jude, an 8-year-old member of the Westport Weston Family Y’s Water Rat Swim Team, went 1:10.68 in the 100-yard Freestyle, eclipsing Mark Franks’ previous Water Rat record for 8 & Under Boys, set in 1982.
A third-grader at Riverfield Elementary in Fairfield, Jude now owns the Water Rat standards for the 25, 50 and 100-yard Freestyle events in his age group.
“Jude is one of the hardest workers on the Water Rat team,” says Chandler Crosby, Assistant Director of Competitive Swimming at the Family Y. “He shows up consistently with a great attitude and works hard on everything his coaches throw at him.”
Jude is already a decorated athlete. Last year, competing in his first YMCA New England Swimming Championships, Jude was a four-time winner in the 25 and 50 Freestyle, the 100 Freestyle Relay and 100 Medley Relay. Jude had the fastest split in the 100 Freestyle Relay, breaking a 29-year-old Y-New England record by over four seconds.
“Jude absorbs all of the information about swimming technique his coaches give him,” says Ellen Johnston, Head Coach of the Water Rats. “He studies the sport of swimming, watches every video his coaches post and reads every article we put out about proper swimming technique.”
Jude swims with his older brother, Charlie, on the Water Rats JAG1 squad, and younger sister, Ella. Besides swimming, his favorite sport is soccer – and one day dreams of playing professionally.
Word of Jude’s feat has spread throughout the Water Rat alumni network, reaching Mark Franks halfway around the world. Married with two children, Mark, now 40, recently moved from Australia to Singapore, where he works as a financial advisor.
Born in Germany to British-Australian parents, Mark lived in Connecticut for eight years. After a family move back to Europe, he attended high school at the American International School in Zurich but returned stateside in his senior year to compete at Junior Nationals for the Water Rats.
A world-class swimmer in every regard, Mark swam for the University of Illinois and, with dual British-Australian citizenship, was a two-time Olympic Trial finalist for Great Britain, in 1992 and 1996. He remains an active competitive swimmer, now focusing on open-water ocean swims.
“Mark sends Jude his regards and best wishes,” says Ellen, noting that he still owns nine team records in the 8 & Under and 9-10 Age Groups.
“We’re all excited to see which records Jude plans to break this year, and I know Mark will be rooting for him as well. That’s what Water Rats do – they cheer their teammates on to be their best.”
The Water Rat Swim Team was established in 1949 and became a year round program in the late 1960s, using the Y’s Brophy Pool as its home waters. With the co-sponsorship of the Westport Parks and Recreation Department, the team used the Longshore Pool during the summers. Legend has it that the name “Water Rats” was established at that time when water rats were actually found in the Longshore Pool, which is located outdoors on Long Island Sound.
As a result of the construction of the Y’s Stauffer Pool in 1978, the team grew in size and stature and added its first full-time coach. The Water Rats now compete in dual meets against other YMCA teams in Fairfield County and in state, regional and national championships. The team is also a registered USA Swimming Club – and a member of Connecticut Swimming, Inc. – and competes in USA Swimming-sanctioned meets at the local, regional, state, zone and national level.