SPORTS

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January 9, 2009

South Siders stay sharp in Costa Rica

Tanner and more toned, with a week of intense training under its belt, the swim team is back from its winter-break training trip in Costa Rica.

“I think it was a great experience,” head coach Jason Weber said. “Ultimately, my goal was to make it a great experience for the [swim team members]. I want it to be one of those things they’ll always remember being a member of this team, and I think we’ve accomplished that.”

The 47 swimmers who went on the trip had the chance to take a zip-line ride through Paos Canopy, tour the active Paos Volcano and the La Paz Waterfall Sanctuary, and visit Jaco Beach on the Pacific coast of the country. For the majority of the trip, the swimmers stayed in San José, from which they took day-trips to these three popular and breathtaking Costa Rican attractions. They spent the rest of the time swimming, dry land training, and soaking up the warm Central American air.

The team had the chance to train with and compete against local swimmers during their time abroad. Two members of the Costa Rican Junior National Team challenged Chicago’s top swimmers to push the pace during one workout. During their meet against the Costa Rican National Team at the University of Costa Rica, the men’s team had the opportunity to compete against one Olympian.

Affectionately referred to as “el hombre muy guapo,” according to the team’s daily tour blog, the Olympian won the men’s 100-yard butterfly in 58 seconds. His Costa Rican teammates won the men’s and women’s 100-yard freestyle, but the Maroons claimed every other event, bringing them to their first international victory. Chicago event winners included first-years Paul Morimoto, Robert Vanneste, Tara Levens, and Laura Biery, second-years Ed Wagner and Ellie Elgamal, and third-year Cassie O’Neill in the five-event meet, which was shortened due to rain. The team was especially proud of this achievement because they competed after hard practices and many members swam off-events.

Although there was plenty of time for fun, Weber said that this was probably the toughest training trip he’s ever coached. Instead of spreading training, competition, and sightseeing into a 10-day vacation, he was forced to condense the schedule to fit it all in the shorter six-day trip. This meant squeezing in morning practices before the zip-lining and touring trips and completing three two-a-days to complete eight practices, two weight-lifting sessions, and one meet during the six days, but the team didn’t do too much complaining.

The training trip was cut short this year due to the greater costs associated with international travel and the fact that fall quarter ended late. Although the majority of the team returned as scheduled on December 20, those members from Oregon weren’t able to make it home until the day before Christmas Eve. Fortunately, Weber had anticipated the possibility of travel delays and had scheduled the trip to end earlier to be sure that no swimmer would have to spend the holidays stuck in an airport.

While the Maroons may not be happy to be back in cold, snowy Chicago, they have their memories of sunny South America to comfort them on particularly chilly days. Pictures and a daily blog, modeled after the one featured in the popular TV show Gossip Girl and written by first-years Lelia Glass and Zach Lain, can be found on the University’s athletics website.

Weber hopes that this will be the first of many international training trips for the team. While he’s not sure about future destinations, he would only consider those with warm and tropical climates. He added that while he would like to explore other countries, Costa Rica is “definitely” a place he’d like to visit with the team again.

With the break over, it’s back to business for the team, as Saturday’s meet at Kalamazoo should present Chicago with some stiff competition to open the second half of the season.

“Kalamazoo’s teams are pretty good, especially on the men’s side, and they always swim better at home,” he said.

But facing a tough team could be a good thing for the Maroons, as it should motivate each member to push themselves in their events. Chicago recently faced a drop in their D-III ranking, most likely because their fastest times were earned without resting while other schools have participated in “shave and taper” meets already this season, and this meet will give the squad a chance to flex its muscles.