Special Sets: A Look At the Training Of Andrew Vanas At Nation’s Capital

Andrew Vanas

Special Sets: A Look At the Training Of Andrew Vanas At Nation’s Capital

One of the delights in the coaching business is watching a swimmer come of age. Dory Halbe, a former American University swimmer and NCAA qualifier, is now an assistant coach at Nation’s Capital Swim Club’s Georgetown Prep site.

In the last year, she has had the pleasure of mentoring former multi-sport athlete, just-turned 14-year-old, Andrew Vanas. A strapping 6-0, 170-pound sprinter, Vanas joined NCAP in 2020 and spent his early days working on technique with former Ohio State All-American Stephen Sakaris.

“That training was a huge factor in his development,” says Halbe. “Andrew moved into my group in 2021. Since then, we have worked on his best events and also emphasized training the 200 free, 100 fly, 100 back and 200 IM to make him a more well-rounded swimmer.”

That’s not to say there weren’t setbacks along the way. Vanas had tendinitis in January 2022 and ended up kicking until the end of February and into March. “So his training was really focused on recovery and setting his stroke up for the summer,” notes Halbe. That time served Vanas well, allowing him to post AAAA times in the SCY 50, 100 and 200 frees and AAA times in the 100 fly. As a 13-year-old, he also posted the 12th fastest time ever in the 50 fly (23.83).

Vanas ended his summer season in fitting fashion. For starters, he won the Montgomery County Swim League 50 free title in 24.94 (SCM). “Lots of our swimmers do summer league, and it’s intense,” says Halbe. “There are meets every weekend, and it’s really fun.” The coup de grâce came at the Eastern Zones meet at Ithaca in August when he won his 50 and 100 freestyles (25.10, 55.05). “I was really pleased with Andrew’s 50, especially his breakout speed and finish. He did a nice job getting into the wall with minimal errors, which was much better than his morning swim (25.71).”

Following are two sets that Vanas enjoyed and Halbe believes set him up for success. “Andrew is a fierce competitor and incredibly strong for his age. He is also very attentive to stroke feedback and eager to learn. He enjoys racing, every single day…so we try to harness that eagerness and give him that opportunity when appropriate.

“We’ve been working on his kick and some more aerobic free because I think he will develop into a good 200 freestyler with time. Andrew is still learning and growing. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can put together this season as a freshman in high school,” she says.

SET #1
Whales (Swimmers 500+ Yards) and Marlins (Sprinters)

“For some swimmers, I made a coaching decision on where they would go based on what they needed that day,” shares Halbe. “I split the group into ‘Distance’ and ‘Speed.’ The logic was ‘Whales’ swim the farthest in the ocean, and ‘Marlins’ swim the fastest.

“Some swimmers discovered they were not sprinters that day. We are an age group program, so I often try to do sets that fit the needs of most, but also give them something special. This set went well. It was done SCM because we swim outside SCM at least once a week due to pool space.

“Andrew was holding around 28-lows without fins on the last four 50s. The goal was to consistently hit the same time. With fins, he dropped a few 26-lows—maybe a 25.9 on the last one.”

SET #2
Broken Swims

“Andrew is a very time-focused swimmer. He wants to know breakout, tempo, time underwater, splits—all of it,” says Halbe. “I try to do broken swims regularly. I make the swimmers count for each other, which builds teamwork.

“The goal of the set is to go your goal time or better. Most can get there easily with 20 seconds rest. This particular set was SCY in the morning. Andrew went low-1:40 and a 1:39 in the 200 free, broken for 20 seconds. We break it up 25/50/50/50/25 with longer rest closer to race day.

“In the pre-set, we use two different types of fins. I think it’s important to switch it up and challenge them in a lot of ways, and using different types of equipment is one way to do that. The short fins are like Zoomers or TYR short fins. Arena Fins are the Powerfin with the strap on the back. It’s just another way to work on kicking,” says Halbe.

* * *

Vanas Times

Photo Courtesy:

Michael J. Stott is an ASCA Level 5 coach, golf and swimming writer. His critically acclaimed coming-of-age golf novel, “Too Much Loft,” is in its second printing, and is available from store.Bookbaby.com, Amazon, B&N and book distributors worldwide.

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