OMAHA, Nebraska, March 4. JUST a day after his national high school record swim went viral on Swimming World’s Facebook page, drawing world-record level views, we’re back to take a deeper look at Creighton Prep’s Jacob Molacek. We spoke with his coach Tom Beck of Greater Omaha Aquatics and Creighton Prep.
As a bit of a refresher, Molacek became the first sub-53 second high school breaststroker in the 100-yard breast with a 52.92 during prelims of the Nebraska state championships. See video of Molacek’s race.
Beck was amazingly open in terms of the information he provided us on Molacek’s swim. It’s a treasure trove of information for those looking to replicate this type of performance.
Outside of his incredible speed in the 100, one of the first things that is striking about Jacob is that he’s wearing an Omaha-related swim cap when he swims club events. With Omaha having hosted two U.S. Trials, what type of impact has that had on swimming in the area, and in Nebraska as a whole?
Speaking from my club team’s perspective, I can tell you that the day they announced that Omaha would host the Olympic Trials in 2008, I challenged our senior team members to “see” themselves at that meet. You get a lot of incredulous looks at first, but when you can start equating practice times paces to Trials cuts, it becomes more possible in their eyes. We didn’t get anyone to that ’08 Trials, but seeds were planted, and we got 2 kids to swim at the ’12 Trials.
Jacob actually just missed making the Trials in ’12, and made what would have been a Trials cut at Juniors in Indy later that summer. At the ’12 Trials, we made up special team Trials T-shirts and had an order for 236 shirts. Our club families were all over the place at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha proudly wearing their shirts and cheering on their 2 (Greater Omaha Aquatics Leopardsharks) GOAL swimmers.
I think that being able to swim at that prestigious of a meet in front of a home town crowd, or close enough for the people in your town to easily drive to the meet, is EXTREMELY motivating for kids. It can get kids to work harder and more consistently than if the meet was a good distance away. Midwestern Swimming is definitely benefiting from it.
What type of person is Jacob? What are the Auburn Tigers getting as a freshman in next year’s class?
If you could have seen Jacob on the deck after the State Meet had concluded this past Saturday, as the custodians were clearing off the deck and nearly everyone was long gone from the venue, you would have seen a kid awash in his emotions, very appreciative of everything he’s been given, standing and soaking it all in for as long as he could. He loves his teammates.
He is very tuned in to the techniques of the sport, and is very quick to make necessary changes. He is very good at noticing changes in his technique on video, and I’d say that is one of the most important things that has fostered his rapid rate of improvement.
Please walk us through the planning involved in Jacob’s sub-53 in the 100-yard breast.
We just put a lot of focus on making any necessary technique changes. We spend a lot of time video taping, both from an underwater view and from above. He noticed after watching his World Trials video last year that he wasn’t staying low and forward enough in his stroke (too much up and down movement) and he was able to change that habit in about 10 days, well in advance of Irvine Junior Nationals when he dropped nearly 3 seconds in his 100 breaststroke time from the World Trials Meet.
So it starts with getting his technique in a good habit, and then we build confidence through specific race pace training and dryland strength training. We have a pace chart showing what push 25, 50, and 75 times equate to a dive 100 time, assuming around 1.1 for the open turn time and a 2.8 differential between 1st and 2nd 50 splits for breaststroke. Based on that, he knew he’d have to be at 12.8 or better on all of his push 25′s to be swimming at sub-53 pace.
What are some of the dryland activities Jacob does that help him develop the obvious power that is needed to break 53 seconds in the breaststroke?
As far as dryland training goes for our high school team, we use ideas from Sergio Lopez down at Bolles School and also Dr. David Salo. Sergio is great about sharing info, and after he sent me a video clip of his team doing a boxing routine, we incorporated that into our dryland.
If nothing else, boxing mixes things up a bit, and the guys really like it. I like the work on hand speed, and how the power has to come from your core. We also use several swimming-specific exercises in our dryland circuit from Dr. Salo’s fairly recent swimming book that has a pretty big dryland/strength component to it.
I know that Jacob has gained a ton of confidence from the extra work he’s done in the past year with Creighton Prep’s powerlifting coach Dan Barton. Coach Barton has a strength studio set up in his garage, and he works with several local kids on general strength development as well as some power lifts. I know Jacob really works hard at his sessions with Coach Barton and sees them as key to his progression. That has been very important work to get him ready for the strength training he’ll undoubtedly be doing down at Auburn.
His initial breakout is phenomenal when you watch the video. Can you talk through some of the technique Jacob brings to the table in terms of his breakouts?
I think his underwater technique really starts with his gliding technique. His ability to really implode into a tight line, from fingertips to pointed toes, and probably also just the shape of his body, allows him to glide through the water uncannily fast.
We time the kids on streamline glides, and he’s the fastest we’ve ever had, by a pretty good margin. Every day in warmup they do streamlined glides without kicking, trying to get as far as possible. He focuses really well on that.
He does a pretty fair amount of sculling work as well to just develop strong hold on the water and improve his ability to feel maximum water pressure on his hands and forearms. When he comes out of his pullout at the correct angle of ascent (and doesn’t “kick air” on his first kick), he gets a very strong first kick by keeping his knees narrow and getting really fast foot speed. He gets tall at the end of that kick to establish good distance-per-stroke on his first cycle.
What are some of the sets and other training-specific items that Jacob has done that led directly to him being the first high school representative to break 53 seconds?
We do a progression set of 25′s to help develop top end speed, then develop some endurance at that speed.
Here is a listing of a pace progression set we did this season, with Jacob’s average times for each set:
They are 25′s timed from feet off wall to fingertips on wall. They are listed in chronological order, with about a week separating sets:
6×25 @ 1:00 avg. 12.4 , 10×25 @ 1:00 avg. 12.5 , 16×25 @ 1:00 avg. 12.5 , 20×25 @ 1:00 avg. 12.7 ; 6×25 @ :45 avg. 12.4 , 10×25 @ :45 avg. 13.0 , 16×25 @ :45 avg. 12.9, 20×25 @ :45 avg. 12.9 ; 6×25 @ :30 avg. 12.9, 6×25 @ :25 avg. 13.0.
We did this set twice a week, once with their #1 stroke, and again in #2 stroke. By the time we get towards the end of a progression at the faster intervals, if we’re really close to a particular predicted time based on paces, confidence should be pretty high considering they’ll be in a faster suit, faster pool, “shaved and tapered”, championship environment, etc. for their big meet swims.
Other things we stress/work on a lot in practice throughout the season:
1. 1000-1500 yds of kicking and underwater work per 2 hour practice.
2. A lot of racing in practice. Pizza point relays throughout the season (thanks for the idea Bob Steele!), usually at least twice a week. Divide group into 3 equal teams and have them race a sprint relay, each swimmer earning points based on what place their relay got. Some days it would be a breaststroke relay, 1 time through, other days a different stroke, and possibly a medley relay where each team figures out their own strokes/orders. Very competitive!
3. Short rest interval repeats on their prescribed endurance development interval (EDI), usually of 100′s, with their interval determined by their 300 free practice time. EDI = avg. 100 time of push 300 free time, plus 7 to 11 sec., to get them on the nearest 5 sec. increment interval. Jacob, for instance, had a best 300 free of 2:43, which made his EDI 1:05. A common set would be a set of 100′s, odds- IM evens- free @ EDI + 10 sec.
4. Lots of partner-coaching. People would fight to be sure to be Jacob’s partner, he is such a good teacher and can spot technique issues really well.
5. Lots of watching video of elite-level swimming, and having video-taping practices where we’d run circuits with one station being video and review/critique with 4-6 swimmers per group.
6. We time them a lot. Things that get timed usually get done better. And, they like to break into “one group at a time” swims so they can swim straight and be relatively wave free for some high quality efforts. I’ll usually oblige if we have time.
How do you balance the high school/club experience for swimmers like Jacob?
We try to take the kids who are qualified to at least 1 Grand Prix event during the high school season if it fits into their schedule well. We also try to schedule a fun and challenging travel meet each year for the high school team. This year, we attended the Maroon and Gold Invite at the University of Minnesota that was filled with a lot of high school teams from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa.