By Katherine Kuklewicz ’15
Each year during winter break, the Skidmore Swimming and Diving Team travels to Ponce, Puerto Rico for a week of high-intensity training. We train in Puerto Rico because of the island’s many available fifty-meter long course swimming pools. The long pool helps lengthen our strokes and greatly increase our endurance. Though we spent approximately four hours in the pool each day, we also took advantage of Puerto Rico’s beautiful weather and warm beaches. Whether that entailed laying by the resort’s pool, playing water volleyball, catching the local iguanas, or walking along the beach, each of us enjoyed spending our free time with our teammates. In addition, we had the opportunity to swim and race against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. During two of the days, we only swam in the morning so that we could travel around Puerto Rico. This year we organized two afternoon trips. On the first afternoon, a number of us took a bus to the northern city of Old San Juan. Old San Juan has numerous shops, restaurants, museums, and even an old fortification to explore. The second trip was to a bay where the team snorkeled around many tropical reefs and mangrove islands. The native guides would dive for underwater treasures, like sea cucumbers and lobsters, which we got to hold. Once the sun had set, we traveled to a bioluminescent bay, where we jumped in and triggered the water’s luminescence. With each movement the water sparkled neon blue, like shooting stars all around you. It was a magnificent experience, which we will all remember. It seems to have become a Skidmore Swimming and Diving tradition that on our last day in Puerto Rico, our team has the opportunity to jump off five, seven and even 10-meter diving boards. Now, I can tell you from experience that the 10-meter board is not for the faint of heart. Though it may look harmless from the ground, once atop the large platform you can see much of Ponce City and the island’s northern mountain range. To put it in perspective, 10-meters is roughly the equivalent of jumping off a three-story building. To this day, I remember leaping off the monstrous board as a first year swimmer, hoping that I would land in the “small-looking” diving well below. However terrifying it may have been, the view from the top is unforgettable, and it was truly a worthwhile experience. Each training trip, the new swimmers are eager to be the first to conquer the 10-meter, while all of us upperclassmen cheer them on from the pool deck. The 10-meter board is a wonderful way to end our training trip and to say farewell to the tropical island. Now that we are back at Skidmore, our training remains challenging and fun. Coach Jill Greenleaf and Assistant Coach Ryan Bremser continue to write difficult swimming sets to maintain our technique, while Coach Dave Longbrake encourages the divers to perform more complex dives. You may be wondering what all of this strenuous training is leading up to. At the end of the season, Feb. 18-21, we will travel to Rochester, New York, where we will compete in the four-day Upper New York State Collegiate Swimming Association (UNYSCSA) Championship Swimming and Diving meet. Though each race is physically exhausting, our hard work and enhanced stamina from the season will pay off. It is at this meet where all of us, more often than not, achieve best times in many of our events. Words cannot begin to describe the euphoria you feel at the end of a race when you look up at the timing board and see the fastest time you have ever swum. In addition to personal accomplishments, the team frequently breaks school records, both in relay events and individual swims. As always, when we are not swimming, it is a pleasure to applaud and support our teammates in the water. I am sure I speak for many swimmers when I say that swimming is a difficult sport, but it has become our passion, which ultimately unites us as a family.
Click here to see a video by Skidmore Athletics about the 2015 training trip