I had the pleasure of speaking with Sarah Brennan, a 15 year old girl from New Jersey who has started providing herself as a competitor in swimming. Here is what she had to say; I hope you enjoy it!
CF: Howold are you and how long have you been swimming?
SB: I am 15 years old. I started swimming for 10 years, but only 6 competitively.
CF: How did you end up getting into being a swimmer and how long did it take for you to where you were comfortable with it and what was the hardest thing you had to do in regards to becoming one?
SB: My next door neighbor gave me lessons in her backyard pool. When she felt as if she couldn’t teach me anymore, age 8, she recommended that I contact Andreas Roestenburg, owner/head coach of New Jersey Race Club and see if he would accept me as a swimmer on his team. It took me about a year after joining NJRC to feel comfortable and to take it to the next level. I think the hardest thing to do was to accept the fact that I have to be dedicated every day in order to get to a high ranking place and that in order to get somewhere I would have to choose to go to practice instead of a dance. Or choose to go to practice instead of a friend’s house. And how to be in bed at 8pm in order to be up at 4am only to be up until 11:30pm just getting home from a double.
CF: Who taught you how to swim and what has been the best piece of advice you have been given?
SB: My next door neighbor, Rose Delnero, taught me the basics of swimming when I was very young and got me use to the water. Then when I joined NJRC I had some of the best coaches in the state help me become a completive swimmer—Tripp Brannick, Danielle Nestler, and Andreas Roestenburg. In addition to teaching me how to compete they also prepared me mentally. The best advice I have been given is that I need to swim for myself and no one else and don’t worry about what they think.
CF: Now at these swim meets that you have done so far, what are the events that you partake in?
SB: For my competitive team I do all events (freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and Individual Medley), but my main focus is in distance events—500, 1000, and 1650. However my high school competitions are different. The coach determines which two events you will always swim in and I am designated in the 200 free and 400/500 free plus both relays 200 and 400 freestyle relay.
CF: Out of all the events, what do you feel you are strongest in and weakest in and how are you working on in correcting your weak parts?
SB: Out of all of my events, my strongest is the 1000. My weakest is the 100 breaststroke. Every day in practice I try my best to fix parts of my technique so that my breaststroke improves and I can exceed in the event.
CF: Now you’re a freshman in high school and you’re on the varsity team. Does that sometimes blow your mind when you sit down and think about it?
SB: When I first joined the team and I was with the varsity swimmers and I was accepted as one of them, I was extremely happy and my mind was blown. I didn’t expect to by on varsity, let alone in freshmen year. Now that the season is over I realized that I earned to be on varsity because I dedicated my heart and life to a sport I love and I worked hard to get to a high level like varsity.
CF: How many meets have you been in so far and how many have you placed in?
SB: I can’t even begin to count how many club meets I’ve been too over the course of 6 years. But in high school the average is around 14 meets per season. In swimming you always place.
CF: Do you have any goals for yourself as a swimmer?
SB: I have plenty of goals as a swimmer. When I was younger my biggest goal was to get to the Junior Olympics. Once I made it there at age 12, I began to go more and more and continue to qualify for multiple events. But as of right now, 15 years old, my biggest goal is to get to Sectionals. I was extremely close last season but I missed it by a few seconds, I could have gotten it this year if the qualifying times were not changed.
CF: In any given week, how much time is spent doing swimming related stuff?
Monday: 5:15 am- 6:30am, 8pm- 9:30pm
Wednesday: 5:15 am- 6:30am, 8pm- 9:30pm A LOT OF SWIMMING
Friday: 5:15 am- 6:30am, 5pm-7pm
High school: At least one-two meets a week—2.5 hours
CF: You are on 2 swim teams. Which 2 teams are they and how do you manage to balance both?
SB: My club team is New Jersey Race Club (NJRC), my high school team is Manasquan High School. Believe it or not but it is quite difficult to handle both. My club coach doesn’t like when we miss practice due to a high school meet and sometimes if we had a big club meet coming up we would have to miss a high school meet. But my high school coach on the other hand is very understanding and realizes how dedicated we are to club.
CF: How supportive are your parents towards you being on 2 swim teams?
SB: Both my parents are very supportive of me swimming. They get up with me at 4am, they drive me and my teammates all over, and they will sit for over 6 hours to watch me swim for less than a minute.
CF: I understand that your based out of NJ, how many meets have been out of state and how have you done outside the state?
SB: Most of the time we do stay in NJ but when we do travel we go to upstate New York and compete there. Out of all the times I’ve been to New York I’ve done pretty well and have gotten some of my best times.
In addition to swimming competitively, I also compete for the US Lifeguard Association’s Junior Guard program. I have been in Jr Guards since I was 8 yrs. old. With that program I have competed against kids from around the country including Hawaii. Last year I represented Monmouth County at the National Tournament in Virginia Beach. I’m hoping to qualify this year for their tournament in Daytona Florida. My ultimate goal for the Jr Guard program is to represent the US in the Worlds Tournament in 2016. If I make the team, I will be able to compete in Amsterdam.
CF; How many other females are on each of your swim teams and do you pretty much as a whole get along with each other?
SB: There are about 30 girls my age on the team and we get together very well. We are one big family. Some of the girls are my best friends and a few are like my sisters. We have been competing together since we were 9 yrs. old and we spend over 12 hours a week together just swimming.
CF: What has been the most surprising thing to about those whole experience so far?
SB: The most amazing thing for me so far was actually with the Junior Guard Program. Nationals were held in Cape May NJ when I was 13 years old. I was so surprised when I won the Jr National Iron Guard event. That is the most difficult and prestigious event to win – long distance swimming in the ocean, running in sand and paddleboards. It was amazing competing against other girls from around the country – and even some of my swim team mates – and being able to win first place. Swimming year round on a competitive team definitely trained me for that experience.
CF: Have you had any injuries so far and around what weight do you have to be as a swimmer?
SB: Yes I do have 1 injury so far. Back about two years ago, my technique was off so my shoulder got injured. It’s not a tear in the muscle but it’s a pinched nerve in my neck that effects my whole arm and shoulders at certain points. There are times when I have zero mobility in my arm. I work with an Active Release Therapist to treat this injury on an on-going basis.
In swimming there is no certain weight that you have to be, but coaches do prefer that you are more toward the lean side. The best swimmers are long and lean. However, one of the most successful female Olympic distance swimmers is actually quite petite – around 5’2” just like me.
CF: For somebody who reads this and is thinking about being a swimmer, what advice would you have for them?
SB: For anyone that wants to be a swimmer I would say go ahead and do it. I have met some of my best friends doing this sport and I grow to love it every day. But you have to realize that you have to be dedicated enough and make sure that you like/love swimming because you don’t want to get too far and realize that you hate it. But if you want to swim you should totally do it. Swimming is a sport for life. You will always be able to swim.
CF: Sarah thanks for your time do you have any last words to wrap this up?
SB: I have just realized over the last year or so, that you aren’t racing the other girls/boys in the pool. You are racing the clock and the clock is your biggest competition – not the other swimmers.
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By Mike Valverde