By Swimming World Intern Carmen Triola
PISCATAWAY, New Jersey, January 10. AS the 2014 CeraVe Invitational warms up, coaches and athletes are beginning to scout their biggest competition. A few from the senior level have already showed promising results, especially from Bluefish Swim Club, North Baltimore Aquatic Club, Long Island Aquatic Club and Scarlet Aquatics.
In particular, 18-year-old Brooke Zeiger of Bluefish made a big splash this morning by taking the top seed in two events: the 200 individual medley and the 100 breaststroke. Three years younger and not far behind is her sister, Liz, who qualified second in the 200 IM and fourth in her 100 butterfly. Also noteworthy were Lauren James, 17, of North Baltimore, and Paige Kaplan, 16, of Long Island, both of whom joined the top 10 in two events.
From the men’s teams, Scarlet Aquatics took a strong lead, with members Christopher Wang, 18, and Ryan Sebastian, 17, making top times in their events. Wang placed first and second in the 200 IM and 100 butterfly respectively, while Sebastian was not only second in the 100 breaststroke, but also placed high in two other races.
Even with the early victories, though, head coach Tom Speedling says he’s not as concerned with record times this weekend. The team worked hard over the holidays, and now he wants to see how the swimmers are progressing in their training.
“We want to check in and see where we’re at,” he said.
Other coaches expressed a similar sentiment. With the invitational’s timing — that is, right after a long December break, and more large-scale events on the horizon — the teams want to use this weekend as a gauge to plan their practices for rest of their season. Competitions tend to be more intense near the end of the summer, with nationals in Irvine close ahead.
“This is good meet along the way,” said Chuck Batchelor, head coach for Bluefish. “It sets you up for the rest of the long course season.”
This weekend will also be a time for practicing specific skills. Chris Lear, Head Coach for the Germantown Aquatic Club, says he wants to see if his swimmers will be applying their general racing techniques from practice. On the other hand, some have even more specific goals. With Asphalt Green Unified Aquatics, for example, it’s all about strong legs and finishing strong, according to assistant coach Doug Lennox.
“You focus more on the little things, like the walls,” said Carly Fried, a member of Lennox’s team. “And that our strokes don’t fall apart.”
Karen Castenada of Scarlet Aquatics also expects more skill work from her team.
“We’re working on our pace more,” said the 17-year-old. “I just want to get best times.”
Yet for some, like Ron Zuwallack’s Cape Cod Swim Club, it’s about taking the next step in their performance. The coach admitted he had a young team, but said he brought them to New Jersey to give them crucial racing experience.
“We’re here to race with the big kids,” he said.