Sports Make Me Feel Like a Redwing

SJ Sports Page > Winter > Winter Sea Lions Swimming > Sports Make Me Feel Like a Redwing
2020 01 22T19 28 01.999Z


Aldan Ott was born in Ethiopia, little did he know that his family was waiting for him over eight thousand miles away.  The Ott’s had always felt there was a piece missing from their family. After lots of paperwork and two trips to Ethiopia his family was able to bring him home.  He has been a Redwing ever since.  

 Aldan is the kind of kid you like right away.  He’s nervous around new situations but he doesn’t look down.  He looks right at you and listens to what you have to say. This is a story that almost all of us can relate to.  It’s a story about someone who was nervous about trying something new but dove right in anyway (pun intended) and came out stronger, achieving things he didn’t think he was capable of.

Aldan at PeeWee Baseball tryouts

As a second grade student, Aldan enjoys most sports. His favorite subject is science. His favorite animal is the Zebra and his favorite superhero is Batman.  He recently ran in a one mile race, taking second place overall. He finished just behind a twelve year old girl (his dad says twelve years old, Aldan says sixteen years old.  We’ll have to check the facts and get back to you.) He likes basketball and enjoyed the City of St. Johns Biddy Basketball program.  He also plays piano and participates in the SJYBA PeeWee Baseball Progam.  His dad volunteers as a baseball coach and it’s something they have enjoyed together.  Sports have always been a big part of the Ott family. Aldan’s oldest sister, Caroline was a gymnast.  His sister Natalie competes as a swimmer, both for the Sea Lions and the SJMS Team. “Whenever I saw my sister swim at swim meets, I’m like, someday I want to do that.”

Aldan with his father at Sea Lion tryouts

His sister Natalie would see that he was apprehensive about trying swimming as a sport so she would “give him tips and took him under her wing a little bit.”  At seven years old, with encouragement from his family, Aldan was ready to try out for the St. Johns Sea Lions.  He was still nervous that he might not make the team.  The tryout consists of being able to swim down and back without using the sides of a twenty five yard pool.  It’s a daunting task for many new swimmers and not everyone makes it on the first try. Like a lot of kids, he struggled with the test, but he got it done and made the team, earning his Sea Lions winter cap and tee shirt.

Aldan enjoyed practicing and quickly started improving.  He listened well to his coaches and used what they told him to get stronger and more proficient in his stroke.  Some of the things they started with included building a stronger kick with kickboards, swimming backstroke and working on freestyle breathing (always the biggest obstacle for new swimmers.)  He was nervous to compete, but the first swim meet was an intersquad “Mock Meet”, a meet intended to introduce new swimmers to competitions.  He competed in the 25 freestyle and 25 backstroke. His time in the 25 backstroke was 36.25.  


Throughout the fall session, Aldan’s times steadily started to drop.  His coaches noticed his improvements and were able to introduce new techniques and bigger challenges in practice.  Club President, Chris Hallead noticed his improvement too. “I had been encouraging him from the beginning, but as he kept improving, I would give him little nudges, just to put it on his radar.  I would say things to him like, hey I think you have a chance at qualifying in this event, what do you think?”

Aldan and sister Natalie at Saginaw Invitational (SVSU)

On the last meet of the session the Sea Lions faced the Owosso Sea Turtles.  Aldan was matched up in the final heat of the 25 backstroke with a stacked field of swimmers, many of whom had already qualified for the State Finals of the MTSL swim league.  It was listed as one of the top ten races to watch that night and it didn’t disappoint. “I knew he would try to keep up with some of the other faster swimmers, because that’s what Aldan does” said Hallead.   Although Aldan’s previous best time was over two seconds slower than needed for a qualifying time, he made the prediction come true, swimming the race in 25.93 seconds.  It was 2.25 seconds faster than his previous best and a whopping 10.32 seconds faster than his first meet, only three months earlier. Aldan finished the race second among all 8 and under boys and qualified for the State Championship Meet in February.  

Aldan knew he had qualified right away.  He went straight over to his parents, who were volunteering as timers for the meet.  “Did Chris see?” He sure did and high fives and fist bumps came soon after. “ I was watching the race with Coach Natalie, saying, he’s got it, he’s got it!  We knew after half the race that he was going to do it.”

Aldan says he was surprised he did it and now has the goal of qualifying in the 25 freestyle.  He recalls it as a pretty good day. His coaches and fans recall it as a pretty great day.

Chris Hallead

Thank you to Aldan and Cory Ott for sharing this story with us.
Follow Aldan and the rest of the Sea Lions season at
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