On Jan. 19 Woodstock co-op’s Adam Steinken swam his best time of the season in the 100-yard breaststroke at the Woodstock Invitational. The time was a little more than two seconds slower than the state-qualifying mark, but the senior’s hopes of making the state meet in Evanston still were very much alive.
Steinken swam that meet without tapering, so he knew the time would get better when he did.
Entering Saturday, Alex Reinbrecht, a swimmer from Jacobs co-op, hasn’t seen his best time of 4:40 in the 500 freestyle. That time came in last year’s sectional. “I’m not tapered yet.”
Near the end of each swimming season teams begin the tapering process. Heading into big events in endurance sports, athletes do less than their bodies are accustomed to. That allows the body to store up energy. If done correctly, that energy will peak the day of the targeted event.
“It is a resting time,” Golden Eagles coach Rick Andresen said, “a time to have the body rejuvenate after weeks of long, hard practices and prepares them to swim their very best.
“You have to decrease yards daily, which turns into a coach’s nightmare by the end because right before the big meet the kids have plenty of energy and they are always throwing things and smacking each other. It’s part of the job to harness that energy and make a conscious effort to rest because you feel like you want to burst with energy.”
Athletes will stop lifting weights a few weeks before swimming a reduced amount of yards.
“It is important that they are still in the pool. You just can’t stop swimming,” said Glenn Brown, coach of the Palatine Park District Tigersharks.
The Tigersharks are one of the top club teams in the state and have had several Cary-Grove swimmers in the past.
“Often times you will swim one or two really tough sets a day then swim easy, long sets just to keep the muscles awake and loose.”
Normally teams will start tapering swimming practices about 10 days before sectionals, the only meet of the season during which a swimmer can qualify for the state meet. Many athletes will be fully rested and wear technical suits that can cost about $300 dollars along with shaving their body hair.
“Swimming is 90 percent mental,” Cary-Grove coach Rick Schaefer said. “You don’t mess with that. A kid might shed an ounce of weight from shaving his body hair, his head and wearing a Fastskin (type of technical suit that mimics sharkskin to reduce drag), but with a taper he believes it will make an even bigger difference.”
Some top swimmers, such as C-G’s Michael Hamann and the Golden Eagles’ Reinbrecht and Josh DeDina, will wait. Often the state meet produces slower times than sectionals because swimmers are fully rested for the sectionals with the goal to make the trip to state. But when the state meet takes place the following week, the swimmer finds he has missed his peak.
That was evident last season when Hamann made state for the third consecutive year but failed to improve on his sectionals times.
“Last year, Michael was fully rested for sectionals and he attacked it hard,” Schaefer said. “This year, we will approach it differently. We probably won’t rest him at all until the day before. That means our other swimmers need to step up on his relays.”
Hamann has already swum faster than the state qualifying times in the 100 butterfly and the 100 backstroke, giving him confidence to be able to put off his taper until state.
“I’m ready for it,” the senior said. “It’s something I’ve worked for so long, and me and coach Rick are aiming for me to peak at state.”
Andresen has similar plans for his top two swimmers.
“Those two, Reinbrecht and DeDina, will work pretty much through sectionals,” Andresen said. “Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (next week) will still be tough and we’ll ease up on Thursday and start their taper.”