Excellent Swimming at Eastern Express

Eastern Express swimming

By Swimming World Intern Brad Klein

PISCATAWAY – The four teenagers ready to swim the 400-meter medley relay at the CeraVe Invitiational recently might not have been in line to win the event, but they were no less excited about representing their team. The Eastern Express Swimming Club was ready to cheer for backstroker Alex Sukrach, breaststroker Jonathan Lessiohadi, butterflyer Caleb Bergstrom and freestyler Donald Buglino.

On the line was a team record, and the four were pumped for the opportunity to race against some of the best junior swimmers in the country. But in a highly individual sport, four distinct personalities lie beneath the black swimming caps they wore.

“It’s about putting yourself out there,” Bergstrom said. “For me, it’s important to be humble, and make sure that when I’m in a lane, or standing on deck that I stick out.”

Sticking out is not easy to do for the 14-year-old. Bergstrom attends Ewing High School, and everyday he walks through the hallway, past the records and milestones; his family name features the swim records. His brother, Micah, is a legend when it comes to Ewing High School swimming. Micah headlined the very same Express team that Caleb currently races for, and for the younger brother, it amounts to a lot of pressure.

“Everyone in school always asks me if I am going to break (my brother’s) records,” Bergstrom said.

Buglino made it apparent that his choice to excel at distance freestyle belies a somewhat different sensibility toward life.

“I am just crazy,” said Buglino, 14. “All of my teammates try to blend in as team members, but I am just crazy. I guess that is why I am better at a more difficult race (like the 1500 freestyle), because I am just crazy.”

For Sukrach, everything involves working hard. “When I get a bad grade in school, my parents expect me to work harder,” he said. “I don’t work harder because they expect me to work harder, I work harder because I expect myself to work harder.”

The hard work paid off for the four in the 400 medley relay, improving their previous best by five seconds to 4:25.53 — and setting a team record. Relays get them more excited because they get to combine their talents, and that brief thrill that comes with being a part of a team race brings out the best in them.

“Relays are definitely more fun, and instead of swimming all the time, you get to cheer for your team,” Lessiohadi said. “On top of that, there is less pressure in a relay than in an individual race because it doesn’t all fall on you.”

However, relays do require a different strategy than a normal race.

“You want to make sure you give your team a good start, that way you have a good chance of staying ahead,” Buglino said. “Also, you want to give your team a good finish (on your leg of the race), to get the next guy into the water (in a good position).”

EEX head coach Mike Randazzo, turns an individual sport 180 degrees. Randazzo makes sure the athletes are good individuals, and team players in and out of the pool. “We emphasize positive reinforcement and professionalism at EEX,” he said.

2 comments

  1. avatar
    barry resnick

    Very interesting .we really got into what swimmers are thinking and how they stay motivated.

  2. avatar
    Mike K.

    Very in depth article and nice job interviewing the subjects. You got into the personal stories and motivations of the athletes. Keep up the great work!