Swimmers rise early to ply their craft|[07/03/07]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 3, 2007

This is the sixth in a series of stories highlighting Warren County’s rich sports culture.

Before the crack of dawn, the most serious ones roll out of bed to dive into a pool of water and push their bodies to the limit.

They’ve been known to shave their entire bodies to trim fractions of a second off their race times.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

It’s no wonder competitive swimmers have been labeled as a different breed.

&#8220It’s not a glamour sport like high school football or some of the other things like basketball,” said Doug Clark, president of the Vicksburg Swim Association. &#8220In swimming, they’re just in the water improving on their own times.”

The Vicksburg Swim Association is the only competitive club team in the city, and members range in age from 4 all the way through college.

At 6 a.m. Monday morning, Elena English was watching over about 20 swimmers as they swam laps at City Pool. English, a swimmer for Delta State, is filling in for VSA coach Marc Bucat this week while he is out of town.

English said some people have misconceptions about the sport.

&#8220Swimming is really a lot harder than people give it credit for,” said English, a Warren Central graduate. &#8220People just don’t realize that pumping out a lot of yardage a day is not an easy thing to do, especially at a high intensity.”

The VSA team practices Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. in the summer. When Bucat is in town, the team also does an hour of conditioning, known as dry land training, outside of the pool.

After the swimmers have finished warming up, English tells the more advanced swimmers to complete 10 400-meter individual medleys, a race that involves swimming from one wall of the pool to the other and back four times while using different strokes. After each 400, the swimmers get out of the pool to do 10 to 15 pushups before getting back in the water.

&#8220I’m so glad I’m not doing this today,” English said.

Even some of the most experienced swimmers in the group have a difficult time finishing the task.

Katie Floyd, 16, has been swimming for 11 years. The St. Aloysius junior completed seven of the IMs. Tiffany Miller, 16, has been swimming for 12 years. The Warren Central junior completed six.

&#8220After the first few, you’re tired and it gets pretty hard,” Miller said.

The team trains year-round, but practices in a smaller indoor pool at the YMCA during the winter months.

When Monday’s practice is over, the VSA swimmers pull the lane ropes out of the pool so lifeguards can get it ready to open to the public.

English will be back again before sunrise every day this week except Wednesday, but she’s used to it. During the school year, she’s awake at 5 a.m. to train with her college team.

After nine years in the sport, English knows this is just one of the sacrifices a swimmer must make.

But that doesn’t make it any easier.

&#8220I’m getting to be a morning person less and less,” English said. &#8220It gets harder to wake up every year.”