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SMAC swimmers set sights on Olympic Trials

smac swimmingSMAC swimmer Aaron James has his sights set on the 2016 Olympic Trials in the 50-meter freestyle, and his PR is within a second of the qualifying time.

The training schedule is grueling, to say the least: in the pool at 5 a.m. most mornings, with afternoon practices a couple of days a week on top of that.

But James knows his limits.

“This morning, I looked over at the distance practice, and it just seems like they’re swimming non-stop. They’re swimming the entire hour and a half we were there,” said James, a member of the Shenandoah Marlins Aquatic Club swim team at the Waynesboro YMCA for two years.

James, who is leaning toward Virginia Tech to swim in college, also competes in the 100 free, 100 fly and 200 free.

Teammate Norah Hunt, who has verbally committed to the College of William & Mary, is on the other side of the pool, figuratively and literally.

A distance swimmer, her best events are the 500 free and the mile.

Hunt and James talked about the differences in their training approaches. Power is the focus for the sprinters: power sprints, free weights.

Distance training takes a more mental approach.

“Sprinting and distance swimming are just so hard, but they’re hard in different ways,” said Hunt. “Sprinting is very fine-tuned, everything has to be perfect. Distance swimming is just long, long and boring sometimes. It’s just a mental challenge to keep at it.”

“I have so much respect for distance swimmers. Your mental capacity is so much farther ahead than mine,” James said.

But in a shorter event, the margin for error is much, much less, meaning every stroke has to be perfect, right?

“That’s hard,” Hunt said.

“Yeah, maybe,” James said. “But to me, when I have to swim 500 meters, I’m just, like, wow.”

Both are in the pool six mornings a week – 5 a.m. weekdays, 6 a.m. Saturdays. There are also weekday afternoon sessions mixed in.

It can be challenging balancing the need for time in the pool and time spent on academics. James intends to study civil engineering in college, with Hunt leaning toward studies that would prepare her for a career in teaching, nursing or counseling.

Both are trying to slow things down so they can enjoy as much of their last year in SMAC as they can.

“This team has been a part of my life for such a long time, so this isn’t necessarily a swimming goal, but I want to make as much of an impact on the team as I can” Hunt said. “I want to make and sustain friendships with members of the team as much as I can. I want to help set the standard for the program for the future.”

“We’re setting the standard for what’s next. That’s important,” James said.

– Story by Chris Graham


augusta free press
augusta free press