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Find out what's happening in the blog. Below is a list of blog items.

Jan 31

Eastern Red Cedar

Posted to Ernie Miller Nature Center: Tracks Newsletter by Bryan Thompson

In the winter the Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) is more easily seen. This evergreen is common through out our state. Many people see this tree as a weedy plant that invades the prairie, shading out grasses and flowers below. This tree is not a cedar nor is it red, at least not on the outside.

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Jun 01

Kevin Glenn and Yaseen El-Demerdash set sights on 2021 Tokyo games

Posted to Explore JCPRD by Becky Burnside

Two members of the Kansas City Blazers Swim Team are heading to June trials relating to the 2021 Summer Olympics.

Kevin Glenn, 18, of Blue Valley West High School will be competing in the 100 meter backstroke in Olympic Trials in early June in Omaha, while Yaseen El-Demerdash, 17, of Blue Valley Southwest High School will be competing in Paralympic trials in mid-June at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis in the 50, 100, and 400 meter freestyle, 100 meter backstroke, and 100 meter butterfly stroke.  Both athletes are from Overland Park.

Both the 2021 Olympics and Paralympics will be taking place in Tokyo, Japan, this summer with the Olympics scheduled from July 23 to Aug. 8, and the Paralympics scheduled from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5.

Glenn joined the Blazers when he was six years old and El-Demerdash joined the team nearly 11 years ago.


Kevin Glenn 

“My mom likes to say that I was a Blazer before I was born,” Glenn said. “My older brother was a Blazer and I even had a Blazer Onesie to attend meets. I like getting to race people. It’s fun to test myself against others. I’m realistic; I never really thought I’d go to the Olympics,” Glenn said. “My goal was trials and I made my goal. My goal might change when I get older, but I’m proud of reaching my current goal but hope to do well in Omaha.”

His favorite aspects of competitive swimming, El-Demerdash said, are “the environment, the opportunity to challenge myself as an individual whilst also being a part of a team. “And since the swimming part is individual, I am in complete control of what I accomplish. I’ve always dreamed of going to the Olympics. I just never saw an opportunity for me to go in 2020 up until last year in the form of the Paralympics.”

Yaseen El-Demerdash

So in that sense, he feels the postponement of the 2020 games due to COVID-19 worked to his advantage.  

“It definitely worked for me. I don’t feel I was prepared physically or mentally,” he said. “Now I feel I’m in a much better spot to accomplish what I was working towards! It’s a lot of mental prep. I’ve been working really hard the last two years towards getting in my best physical shape, and in order for me to make the most of that I need to be mentally ready. So I have been doing a lot of visualization of each race.” 

In addition, he said he practices in the pool for about 10 hours per week, plus another six to eight hours in the gym. 

“Practice since COVID has been a challenge,” Glenn added. “I practiced in a private scuba training pool during the lockdown and then augmented our Kansas City Blazers practices with workouts at my gym. Our coach has us practicing long course this week and next.”
Glenn is coached by Blazers Head Coach George Adcock and Blazers Elite Assistant Coach Mary-Catherine Ivey, while El-Demerdash is coached by three Blazers coaches, including Adcock, Ivey, and Coach Alex Morris.

About two years ago El-Demerdash was classified as a para athlete due to his rare condition, Poland’s Syndrome, which affects bone and muscle growth.

“We treated him as we treat all Blazers on our team until then, and I think that played to his success,” Adcock said. “The Paralympic aspect is new to all of us and we’re navigating it together.”

The Blazers currently have about 300 active members. Coach Adcock said the team has not yet seen the typical summer Olympic year wave of new interest, but attributed this partially to COVID-19 restrictions which have limited participation of the past year, and said he anticipates the interest may come after the summer games. 

The Blazers have a long history of training Olympic competitors. These include: Nadia Kreger, who competed for the Swedish team in the 1984 Los Angeles Games; Mark Dean who competed for the U.S. in the 1988 Seoul games; Janie Wagstaff who brought home gold for the U.S. in 1992’s Barcelona games; Katherine Fox, who brought home two gold medals from Atlanta in 1996; Scot Goldblatt who swam for the American team in both the 2000 Sydney games and the 2004 Athens games and brought home a silver and a gold; Max Jabens who swam for the Israeli team in Beijing in 2008; and Shannon Vreeland of Overland Park was part of the U.S. 4x200-meter freestyle relay team which brought home gold from the 2012 London Olympics.

The Blazers are just one aspect of JCPRD’s aquatic program. In addition to swimming lessons for youth and adults, JCPRD offers water polo, water exercise for adults and 50 Plus, and a Blazers Masters competitive swim program for those over 18. It also operates the Shawnee Mission School District Aquatic Center in Lenexa’s City Center.