Hell week in paradise: Swimming trains in Puerto Rico

Over this past winter break, the Swarthmore Men’s and Women’s Swim teams embarked on a ten day-long intensive training trip to Puerto Rico. Aimed at preparing the team for the approaching conference finals, this trip has been a long standing tradition since the 1980’s.

Prior to Puerto Rico, the team would make an annual seventeen hour drive to the “Sunshine State” of Florida, leaving them exhausted from the long trip and facing temperatures comparable to those in Philly. Paid for by both the swim teams’ fundraising efforts and contributions from the swimmers themselves, Puerto Rico has become the perfect location for the team to torture itself.

“We get three weeks of work done in 10 days,” Head Coach Sue Davis remarked on the trip. Practices at the long course 50 meter pool (more than double the length of the Swarthmore swimming pool) at the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao were exponentially more demanding than those done at home. “If we didn’t have the sun and the change of atmosphere, we would probably go crazy because of all of the swimming,” women’s swimmer Briana Schoenek ‘17 admitted.

Rising and shining at 5:00 in the morning and enduring an additional practice later in the day gave the swimmers little time to recover. In addition, the practices included a combination of both swimming and dry land strength training exercises. “The key to training well on this trip is to ignore the fact that you’re really tired and sore, and just push through,” Davis continued. “Overall they practiced extremely well.”

Now that their training is complete, Davis explained the importance of tapering. Tapering allows the swimmers’ bodies to recover from the intensity of Puerto Rico. “I’ve probably torn their bodies up pretty well, so tapering will give them a chance to recover,” Davis said. Tapering began last Monday when students returned to Swarthmore and will continue up until conferences begin in approximately four weeks. The team will start to intensively rest nine days before conferences, ensuring that their bodies are in peak condition for competition.

The most important thing for the team in the next five weeks is to get proper rest, avoid getting sick and abstaining from party festivities; paint or no paint. “Our times will improve for sure,” Davis continued, “We’ll be swimming tired for the next couple of weeks, so it may not show in our times now, but by the time conference comes our times will improve.”

“Puerto Rico helped a lot,” Davis added, “The training trip is kind of what most teams call ‘hell week’. We just try to bring their hell week to the Caribbean.”

Well-rested or not, Swarthmore showed no ill-effects from its grueling trip, handily defeating Cabrini in Saturday’s meet at Ware Pool. Kate Wiseman ’15 quickly shook off the cobwebs from a semester abroad, winning both the 100-yard and 200-yard breaststroke, while also anchoring the victorious medley relay team of Wiseman, Erica Flor ’17, Nikkia Miller ’16 and Rebecca Teng ’14. Erin Lowe ’14 was also a multiple winner for Swarthmore, claiming victories in both the 100-yard freestyle and the 200-yard fly.

On the men’s side, Andrew Steele ’17 stole the show, setting a college record in the 100 IM, posting a time of 55.87 seconds in the time trial. Steele also won the 200-yard freestyle, while Samuel Tomlinson ’15 and Lincoln Harris ’17 earned victories in the 100-yard backstroke and the 200-yard breaststroke, respectively.

Swarthmore will next hit the pool when it hosts Centennial Conference foe Gettysburg. The meet will begin at 2:00 p.m. at Ware Pool.

 

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