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Summer season gives head start to dedicated Panther swimmers

Powell Swim Club and Powell High School swimmer Amanda Tracy credits some of her high school success to the work put in during the summer swim season. Tracy is a two-time Class 3A state champion entering her senior season at PHS. Powell Swim Club and Powell High School swimmer Amanda Tracy credits some of her high school success to the work put in during the summer swim season. Tracy is a two-time Class 3A state champion entering her senior season at PHS. Tribune courtesy photo by Brian O’Neill

To become a great swimmer, you have to swim.

A lot.

It’s not a complex formula — and factors such as genetics, diet, desire, etc. play a role — yet so few high school swimmers choose to swim in the offseason.

Those who do, however, reap the rewards.

Amanda Tracy and Katie Brown, two Powell High School swimmers, are ready to cash in their work with the Powell Swim Club for a successful fall prep season.

“Swimming year-round is really the best thing for any swimmer,” Tracy, 17, said.

And for PHS head girls’ swim coach Luke Robertson, the summer months are the most important.

“I always tell them that if you’re going to be swimming in the offseason, summer’s the best time,” Robertson said. “That butts up right before the start of our season.”

Robertson’s job is made easier by swimmers who enter the school year in midseason form. They are at a superior level of conditioning and are less susceptible to injury.

“The kids who have been swimming all summer, you don’t necessarily have to ease in so much, you can just hit the ground running,” Robertson said. “If you haven’t been swimming all summer, then you come in and you have to build a base.”

Tracy, an incoming senior, and Brown, a junior, will enter the high school season following successful stints with the Piranhas.

Tracy earned four top-10 finishes at the state meet in Gillette on July 19 and won the 200-meter freestyle at the Kate Holt Memorial in Buffalo on July 12.

Brown had two top-10 finishes at state and two others in the Kate Holt Memorial.

The wins, finishes and times are impressive, but less scrutinized in the summer than during the high school season.

Powell Swim Club coach Jerry Rodriguez said the hectic schedule of the high school season limits the amount of teaching that can be done.

“It’s just constant pressure,” Rodriguez said. “In the summertime we’re able to focus on things. We’re not under any big pressure to go anywhere.”

Without the weekly travel and constant competition, swimmers can utilize their time to stay in shape, improve technique and work on new events.

“The summer is a good time for us to work on drills a lot and just really focus on becoming better at the little things,” Tracy said.

And with a much smaller roster, the Piranhas receive extra attention from the coaches.

“Our practices can be really focused because there are less people swimming, and we have more time to practice between meets,” Brown said. “This summer, Jerry has been helping me with butterfly quite a bit. I’ve also been working on my pull in freestyle and just getting a better hold on the water.”

Tracy and Brown have experienced both sides of the summer coin.

Each has benefitted from swimming with the Piranhas under Rodriguez, and each has struggled following summers geared toward more leisure than laps.

“When you take a nine-month break, or even a two-week break, you forget about your tiny problems and fall back into your old bad habits,” Tracy said.

Tracy made work a priority over swimming in the summer of 2014, and she didn’t feel like herself when the PHS season started.

“I was not at the physical level I was the year before,” Tracy said. “Since I wasn’t getting the times I wanted to get, it sort of put up a mental barrier that kept me from performing well.”

Tracy rebounded to win a state title in the 200-yard IM, and a third-place finish in the 100-yard backstroke.

The consequence of taking a summer off was made apparent to Brown in the beginning of her first high school season.

“When I first went into swimming my freshman year, it was pretty hard to get back into the swing of things,” Brown said. “It’s really hard to go from not swimming at all to swimming twice a day.”

Brown rejoined the Piranhas in the summer prior to her sophomore season, and was ready to go when the Panthers started in the fall.

“Once I got to the high school season, it was really simple for me to jump right in,” Brown said. “My freshman year it took me a while to qualify, but after swimming through the summer I was able to qualify at the second meet (my sophomore year). I’d say you’re definitely more prepared for the season.”

The challenge of swimming year-round extends outside of the water, though.

“Sometimes I have to choose between spending time with my family and swimming,” Tracy said. “Basically it is trying to choose between two families, so it is really hard.”

Social lives are limited, work hours are cut back, and coaches fear the threat of swimmer “burnout.”

To combat this, Rodriguez mixes up his traditional swim practices with games of ultimate frisbee and soccer, hikes up Heart Mountain and dry-land training.

“They look forward to our summer season because we do all those other things,” Rodriguez said. “There’s a whole big world of things to do. We don’t just want to swim all the time.

“I like it too, because I’m not just standing on the deck.”

The summer season ends on Aug. 14.

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