How They Train Sara Daher – Sponsored by TritonWear

Photo Courtesy: for Bates College

Editorial content is sponsored by TritonWear. Visit

“Gone, but not forgotten” barely describes the impact that 2017 Bates College graduate and 23-time All-American Sara Daher had on Bates swimming. In four years, she led the Bobcats to four NCAA Division III finishes among the top 17, including 11th in 2015 and 13th in 2017. The Marblehead, Mass. stalwart was a six-time A-A her senior year, setting school records in the 100-200 yard free (51.26, 1:50.6) and back (55:49, 1:59.62) and 200 IM (2:02.42).

Daher was team captain and Bates Athlete of the Year in her final season, four-time team MVP (voted on by the swimmers) and the 2017 Bates Senior Citation winner (Hall of Fame award). Says Coach Peter Casares, “Sara was a no-nonsense and hardworking athlete, but more importantly, fiercely loyal and a tremendous teacher. She was a professional from Day 1. Her ability to work hard and her attention to detail was exceptional.”

Casares attributes part of Daher’s success to the background and relationship with her North Shore YMCA club coach, Jim Houlihan: “He helped her create an aerobic base through very tough IM-focused sets.

“We did fewer yards at Bates, but our workouts allowed for faster daily speeds. Sara also bought in to our lifting goals 100 percent. She improved in every event from the 400 IM to her 50 free. That improvement can be traced back to her aerobic background, coupled with her ability to work hard—and be totally engaged in all the weight room and pool workouts.

“We preach that engagement in practice is more important than volume. She lived that daily. From dolphin kicks to breathing patterns to percent effort and heart rate goals, she was always doing things right. Even if we asked for something ridiculously hard—or something she hated (e.g., three-breath 50s)—she found a way to do it right. That truly created an athlete who could perform well in every environment—from dual meets to NCAAs. Whether she felt great, or fatigued, she was fast when she needed to be,” says Casares.

“One of her top goals every day was to make sure her teammates were having fun. Even if she was disappointed in her practice or swim, she would put that aside and find a teammate. Inevitably, I would hear an uproar of laughter from her and the group around her. She understood how hard this sport was and wanted everyone to realize how much fun it was to be together, united, like a family.

“Psychologically, she had an idea of what time she wanted to go at meets, but never talked times. It was more important for her to know her plan and execute. She bought into our philosophy of, ‘If you swim the race right, the right time will be on the board,’” he says.


“On training trip her sophomore year, we did 5 x 500 broken…as 3 x 100 free on 1:30 (just make it), 1 x 200 specialty stroke FAST. I remember she was within 10 seconds of her lifetime best the whole way—even though she initially thought I was crazy,” says Peter Casares, head coach of men’s and women’s swimming at Bates College (Lewiston, Maine).

Set #1

12 x 150 as follows:
• 1-4: 100 free fast @ 1:20, 50 free easy @ 1:00
• 5-8: 100 specialty fast @ 1:30, 50 free easy @ 1:00
• 9-12: 50 specialty fast @ :45, 100 free easy @ 1:30

Set #2

5 x 400 as follows:
• 100 fast from a dive @ 1:30
• 200 loosen @ 3:30
• 100 fast from a push @ 1:45
Try to hit your lifetime best 200

Set #3

• 4x [175 fast + 25 easy] @ 4:00
Goal was to be faster than your lifetime best 200
• 300 easy
• 8 x 25 with Tempo Trainer at 200 pace @ :15 rest
• 200 easy
• 6 x 15-yard tethered sprints at 50 pace @ 1:00


SCY 2013/HS 2014 2015 2016 2017
100 Free — — 52.6 52.1 51.2
200 Free 1:56.6 1:52.5 — — 1:50.6
100 Back 58.7 — — 56.3 55.4
200 Back 2:04.0 2:02.2 2:01.5 2:01.9 1:59.6
200 IM 2:05.7 2:03.7 2:02.5 2:02.6 2:02.4
400 IM 4:31.3 4:23.8 4:24.3 4:22.3 —

TritonWear has a tremendous amount of data on training and racing.  Click Here To Learn More

This article originally ran in the December 2017 issue of Swimming World Magazine.