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Verona Rides New Wave Of Swimming
The Verona Pool is 25 meters from side to side across the lap lanes. But for many of the young swimmers who came out for the Verona Waves team this year, it might as well have been as wide as the Atlantic. Swim races are grouped by age, and most of the 90 boys and girls on the travel team’s roster were on the younger end of their age group. Getting on the starting blocks against older, taller teams was daunting.
When the Verona Waves first swam against Florham Park on July 8, they lost by 70 points. It was their third meet and their third loss. Two weeks later, when the teams met again, the scoring gap was also 70 points. But this time, Verona was the victor. The Waves, who ended the regular season with three wins and five losses, are sending 59 swimmers to the Divisionals meet at Madison on Monday morning.
“It was cool to see the nerves shift,” says Nick Hennig, a former Waves star (and 2012 graduate of Verona High School) who is the team’s head coach this summer. “In the beginning, they had it in their heads that they weren’t going to finish. In the end, they were no longer nervous about getting across the pool. They were excited to finish.”
What turned the tide? The team’s coaches–high school and college-age swimmers–kept the focus on fundamentals like how the swimmers rotate their hips as they move through their kicks and strokes. “When you correct those things, their speed increases exponentially.” In addition to Hennig, who now swims for the University of Scranton, the coaching staff includes Maureen O’Toole, Joe Costa, Grace Endersby and Ed Oser; Liam O’Toole coaches the Waves’ B team and helps Hennig set the race lineup for the travel team. “The staff works hard,” says Hennig. “They design every practice with a specific purpose.”
That focus, says Hennig, produced swimmers like brothers Gabe and Tristan Lugo. “In the beginning, they were just getting back and forth,” he recalls. “In the matter of a month, these kids have exploded as swimmers. They are so highly motivated and so into competing. At the end, they were getting into the water and blowing us away.”
It also led to big gains by some of the team’s more experienced swimmers. Nine-year-old Ashley Duhaney has shaved 3 and a half seconds off her time in the 25-meter freestyle. “From a swimmer’s perspective, that is monstrous,” Hennig says. Her older sister, 15-year-old Alexis Duhaney, finished ahead of swimmers who spend eight or nine months of the year in a pool. “She developed some exciting races,” he adds.
This is the final week of racing for the Waves. The Divisionals will be Monday morning at Madison, while the sport’s Meet of Champions is Thursday in New Providence.
Photos copyright Donna Giuliano. Used by permission.
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