Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Larrazabal children Jenae, 5, Christopher, 6, Quentin, 8, Jacob, 9, Nathaniel, 10, Alix Marie, 12, Samantha, 15, and Ryan, 17, leap into the Wild Timber subdivision community pool for a portrait in Sugar Hill on Friday.
SUGAR HILL -- Aside from the many excited swimmers and coaches, there will be plenty of equally excited and proud parents and family members when the 2012 Gwinnett County Swim League's Championship Meet commences today at Georgia Tech's Aquatic Center.
Count Jose and Lynn Larrazabal among those proud parents who will be watching a child compete for a county championship over the next two days -- plus eight. Or more accurately, multiplied by eight.
"It's a great activity that as a family they can all ... participate in," says Lynn Larrazabal.
This summer marked the second time all eight of the Sugar Hill couple's children -- biological sons Ryan, 17, and Jacob, 9, and daughters Samantha, 15, Alix Marie, 12, and Jenae, 5, and adopted sons Nathaniel, 10, Quentin, 8, and Christopher, 6 -- competed for the GCSL's Wild Timber Team Extreme.
But this weekend will be the first time all eight have qualified for, and will compete in, at least one event in the county championship meet.
"That's very cool," said Samantha, who will be competing in the 100-yard breaststroke and 200 medley and freestyle relays in the 15-18 girls division this weekend. "(We) are all very excited. I don't think the little ones have ever swam in (Georgia Tech's) pool, so it's a big deal. They're really excited."
So are the Wild Timber coaches, who have watched the Larrazabal family grow -- in every sense of the word -- over the past seven years, when Ryan first joined the club.
"It's awesome," said Wild Timber assistant coach Patrick Lyons. "Really, they're a pack. They're a team, and it's awesome they get to be a part of (the county meet). ... Each year we come back in May, and it's like, 'Wow, there's another one,' or, 'There's another one getting bigger or faster.'
"They're all exceptional athletes and exceptional children. They listen well. And every time we turn around, they're improving drastically."
The downside to having so many county qualifiers is that it makes for one very busy weekend.
In all, the Larrazabals will be represented in 26 different events over seven different age and gender divisions throughout the two-day meet, which doesn't leave much down time.
"We have to highlight our heat sheet because almost in every event, we have somebody," Lynn said.
But she doesn't mind. After all, it's not much different from what the family goes through every day each summer, when several different age groups' practice schedules must be juggled.
"It's gotten a little easier because I've got one who's driving now," Lynn said of 17-year-old Ryan. "Otherwise, I spend a couple hours down here Monday through Friday for two or three practice sessions. But they all love it."
Meet nights for six Thursday nights each summer can also make for long evenings, with nearly every moment from a typical meet's 6 p.m. start to its conclusion some four or five hours later occupied.
But Ryan echoed his mother's sentiments that the family wouldn't have it any other way.
"It's fun," Ryan said. "At the end of Thursday nights, you are dead (tired), but it makes ... you want to do it even more. I look forward to Thursday nights because I'm out here with family and a bunch of friends, and we're here all night.
"Sometimes, you'll be hanging out on (the deck) and you'll forget that you have to swim. It's like, 'Oh, that's my event. I'd better get up on the block.' It's just so much fun."
It's also an opportunity that the entire Larrazabal family will have for just one more year before Ryan's league eligibility runs out following next summer's season.
And after watching the family's participation with the Wild Timber team grow over the past seven years, Lyons admits it will be strange to see the number of Larrazabals decline.
"It's going to be sad," Lyons said. "It's going to be tough because ... every time you turn around during a meet, one of them is there."