Swimming: Inter-Ac season off to snowy, sputtering start

If it seems like it’s been a slow start to the swim season for some teams, well, it’s not just perception. While things have more or less gone to plan for the public schools in Delco, each getting four to six meets under their belts, there have been fewer meets to be had for the Inter-Ac schools. Episcopal Academy, for instance, has swum two meets, and it is the leader in the clubhouse. Notre Dame has swum just once. Agnes Irwin has had one meet this season, two others having been postponed by inclement weather.

Then there’s Haverford School, which enters the new year having yet to get up on the blocks in a meet, dual, invitational or otherwise. The Fords’ only scheduled meet of December, a Dec. 10 meeting with Penn Charter, was postponed due to winter weather.

It’s a bit of an unusual situation for Haverford School, leaving coach Sean Hansen to make some minor adjustments in the training regimen. With only one meet slated for December anyway, Hansen and his staff were readying for a busy month in terms of training time. Going from one meet to none has Hansen looking on the bright side of the new schedule.

“It changes it a little bit, one meet versus no meets,” Hansen said. “We tend to do more lactic acid stuff, more race-pace sprint work. … In reality, it helps a little bit. Guys are coming off summer – and I don’t have a lot of year-round swimmers – and they’re playing water polo and coming into the fall a step behind. So we have a solid month of training we can do.”

If there’s a team prepared to cope with the potential monotony that swim workouts can entail, it’s Hansen and his staff. The Fords pride themselves on a unique approach that integrates work in the water with dryland and weight-room techniques. Instead of countless miles in the pool, Hansen’s team is able to break the drudgery with different athletic challenges. That fosters, and benefits from, the mental toughness of the team.

“It hasn’t been tough,” Hansen said. “It’s normally tough in general, but we tend to avoid those practices anyway, those ‘get in and do 10 200s…’ We like to mix it up. And we’ve got a good mix of senior and young kids. We’ve had some days where we’ve broken into teams and done some intra-squad stuff. But the kids are good, and when we explain a set to them, they get in and do it.”

Hansen sees it as a simple transition into January, where the Fords will have seven meets in four weeks. They’re pretty regularly spaced, falling largely into a Tuesday-Friday pattern that normalizes the routine of between-meet practices.

Where the first few weeks of the season have been focusing on building an aerobic base and stroke technique, the aim of training sessions will change to the particulars of needed to get the Fords ready to race on a regular basis.

Haverford School’s predicament is similar to many of the Inter-Ac schools. Agnes Irwin is looking at six meets in January, pending another rescheduling from December. Notre Dame will have seven as well. For teams that haven’t gotten much experience racing this season, the adjustment will have to be made very quickly.

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