Winter break is no vacation for high school swimmers

Brian Harding is shown during a recent Shenendehowa boys' swimming and diving practice in Clifton Park. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Sportswriter)Brian Harding is shown during a recent Shenendehowa boys' swimming and diving practice in Clifton Park. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Sportswriter)

BY MICHAEL KELLY
Gazette Sportswriter

Most high school students could have used a few extra days added onto winter break. Area swimmers, though, are just fine with classes being back in session today.

That means “Hell Week,” as Shenendehowa sophomore Josh Tsai said his team jokingly calls it, is complete.

Conveniently stuck in the middle of the boys’ swimming and diving season, winter break gives coaches around Section II a school-free week during which to push their athletes to their limits. Practices run a bit longer, yardage counts go up and the intensity of workouts hits an apex.

“This week is what gets us prepared for sectionals,” Niskayuna senior Bryan Colby said.

Each year, that’s the case. While female high school swimmers get the chance to go through grueling workouts during the preseason before classes start, that opportunity for boys does not arise until December’s vacation.

“We always use the holiday time to up our yardage and [increase the] intensities of some workouts,” Mohonasen/Schalmont coach Bill Mottola said.

Since practices started Nov. 9, area swimmers have been building up their stamina while perfecting the technique within their freestyles, backstrokes and breaststrokes. The combination of that training — plus the lack of meets and invitationals during winter break — allows for swimmers to be ready for a super-charged week of practices in between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

“So, it all reaches a crescendo this week,” said Chuck Dunham, Shenendehowa’s coach. “The extra benefit, though, is that [the swimmers] all get the opportunity to recover throughout the rest of the day [from the workouts] because they don’t have school and everything else going on.”

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About the Author

Michael Kelly
Michael Kelly is a sports reporter for Your Clifton Park and Your Niskayuna, weekly print publications of The Daily Gazette. Kelly grew up in Clifton Park and graduated from Shenendehowa High School in 2006. He is also a 2010 graduate of the Stony Brook University School of Journalism. Kelly's work has been honored by the New York News Publishers Association, the New York State Associated Press Association, and the Associated Press Sports Editors. His work has previously been featured in The (Amsterdam) Recorder, The Saratogian, and Albany Times Union.