Three U.S. sisters swim for German team

Senior Airman Amaani Lyle, Story and photo
Kaiserslautern American

KMC spouse Robin Houck made a confession from the stands as water splashed along the edge of the Kaiserslautern School Centrum South 25-meter pool.

“I don’t think I have any photos of my children actually swimming,” the mother of three said.

It could be that the Houck girls Frankie, 17, Leigh, 13, and Roni, 9, swim much faster than an amateur photographer could shoot. All three girls work diligently at least five times a week for up to several hours to ensure their race times in the pool steadily drop, said their coach, Peter Menzel.
With the Wiest Autohauser Cup 2006 swim meet in Darmstadt, Germany, taking place Saturday and Sunday, Robin and her spouse, Master Sgt. James Houck, U.S. Air Forces in Europe Headquarters KC-135 functional manager, said they have all confidence that their daughters will be worthy opponents as part of the 700-member Kaiserslautern Swim Club.

While the three sisters are now among some 220 members of the swim club who train for competitions, the Houck girls said it’s hard to remember when swimming was merely about splashing around.

“I can’t even remember the first time I got in the water,” Ramstein Intermediate student Roni said. “I think I was too young to know exactly when.”

The Houck children each began swimming on their own by about age five, and quickly went from using “floaties” to ably executing various styles of swimming for competitions.

With a time of 1:41.65 in the 100-meter breaststroke, Roni already boasts a tenth-place finish in Germany in December 2005 for the 9-and-under category. Frankie added a first place ranking in the Rheinland-Pfalz region for her time of 1:08.34 in the 100-meter butterfly during the same month. Each girl swims  multiple-distance butterfly, freestyle, backstroke and breaststroke, and performs the individual medley.

Frankie, a Ramstein American High School senior, said she hopes her aquatic skills carry her to the Olympics one day. She already qualified for an elite tryout in England for her time of 28.4 seconds in the 50-meterfreestyle.

“I would love to continue trying out and go to the Olympics — I think it would be an incredible experience,” she said.

***image1***In the meantime, Frankie said she hasn’t lost sight of her short-term goals. Several stateside colleges have already noted her dedication and courted her with swimming scholarships.

“I love the culture exchange and travel opportunities that come from being on a German team, but I was also able to swim for Arizona State University Sun Devils last summer which was really fun,” Frankie said.

Competitions aside, it seems swimming will continue to be a part of the Houck family tradition.

“I always swam when I was in school, so I knew this was something I was going to share with my children,” Mrs. Houck said.

While Sergeant Houck admits he’s “not much of a swimmer,” he said he recognizes what swimming, especially while being in Europe, means to his family.

“Swimming has been something the whole family can be involved in,” he said. “It’s been wonderful to have the girls befriend and train with their German teammates,” Sergeant Houck said.