Swim clubs offer valuable offseason training for high school standouts

Saturday, July 20, 2019 | 4:01 PM

WPIAL gold medals in swimming might be won in early March, but they are earned during the offseason.

The end of the high school swimming season marks the beginning of a long offseason where swimmers almost immediately jump back in the water with local swim clubs and get back to work on perfecting their strokes and strengthening their bodies for another run at gold-medal glory.

“The spring is a real good time to reset techniques, refocus on goals and get ready for that winter season,” said Allegheny North Swim Club assistant coach Brittany Glass. “You got kids who have goals with national cuts, and especially now with the college recruiting starting a little bit earlier, it’s definitely a time where you don’t want to take your foot off the gas pedal.”

Glass, who also is an assistant coach for North Allegheny, has a pretty good idea how to achieve those goals and condition a swimmer for the long haul. North Allegheny once again dominated the field at last season’s WPIAL Class AAA swimming championships at Pitt’s Trees Pool, where the boys and girls teams won the team titles … again.

“I think it’s just as important as our normal high school season,” NA rising senior Rick Mihm said. “I just still stay pretty consistent with training throughout the summer and getting in the weight room a bit, getting a little more yardage and just change it up a little.”

After pulling in four WPIAL gold medals and three more at the PIAA meet in March, Mihm, a Stanford recruit, will get his first dip in pool at his future home when he travels to Palo Alto to compete in the US Nationals from July 31-Aug. 4.

“I think I’m in the top 10 for (the) 18-and-under (age group),” Mihm said. “It’s the very best of the best.”

While Mihm seems to be on his way, a talented class of freshman swimmers made noise at the WPIAL championships. One is Freeport’s Alexis Schrecongost, who earned silver and bronze medals in her first competition.

After the high school season was over, she rejoined the Killer Whales club team and also is swimming for the Sylvan Sharks swim team this summer.

“I just keep swimming,” Schrecongost said. “After my freshman season, I learned that in my breaststroke my kick needed to be faster.”

Schrecongost doesn’t have to look too far for quality competition.

Her biggest rival also is a teammate at Sylvan. Highlands standout Rachel Blackburn finished second in the 100-yard breaststroke, a spot ahead of Schrecongost.

“I’ve swam with her since I was little,” said Blackburn, who also is the starting second baseman on the Highlands softball team. “We would always swim in the same events and the heats. She’s my competition everywhere I go.”

Another multisport athlete is 2019 Norwin grad Courtney Kosanovic. A Bethany recruit, she swims for Norwin Aqua Club and is preparing herself for the rigors and competition that await at the college level.

“Now that I’m swimming in college, my focus has been all swimming,” said Kosanovic, who also made it to states in cross country. “I hope to do the IM (in college). I need to practice all four strokes and make them are as perfect as they can be.”

Like the Sylvan swim team that brings in swimmers from multiple schools, the Norwin Aqua Club does, too.

Elizabeth Forward rising senior Kaelyn McClain had nowhere to go when she first started in the sport. So McClain, who earned a gold and three silvers at last season’s WPIAL championships, has been with the Norwin Aqua Club from the very beginning.

“When I first started off, Elizabeth Forward didn’t have a club,” McClain said. “I love the coaches, and we also have two practice options that I like. I can build my endurance up.”

Recent Franklin Regional grad Aidan Spinola is using the Murrysville Swim Club to prepare for college. In a sport where the earlier a swimmer begins to compete, the better off they are, the Mt. Union recruit, feels like he needs to catch up to the competition having picked up the activity five years ago.

“I have catching up to do,” Spinola said. “I started off swimming relatively late compared to most swimmers.”

It was Spinola’s desire and work ethic that caught the eyes of the Mt. Union coaches.

“You can tell if somebody is a good swimmer based on the amount of time they spend training,” Spinola said. “Ultimately, my goal is to swim faster and reach my true potential, and I don’t know that that is yet because I’ve only been swimming for five years.”

William Whalen is a freelance writer.

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