Saturday, December 20, 2008

1-2 Combination: Open Water and Pool Swimming at SIU

Kirsten Groome, one of the top cross-over swimmers in the world (400, 800, 1500-meter freestyle and 5K and 10K), will team up with Rick Walker at Southern Illinois University (SIU) in Carbondale, Illinois. Kirsten, who has won and placed high in several FINA 10K Marathon Swimming World Cups around the world, is also a highly regarded pool swimmer and will be starting as a freshman at SIU in September 2009.

Rick has guided USA Swimming’s effort in the elite open water swimming world for nearly two decades, including being the head coach at several world championship events. His unique experience as a college pool coach for 21 years and an 11-time USA Swimming national open water swim team coach gives him a unique background to incorporate the best practices of both disciplines for the good – and enjoyment – of his athletes.

"We could not be more excited about having Kirsten joining our team next year," said Rick who incorporates open water swimming into his NCAA Division I men’s and women’s programs, partly because the SIU campus is conveniently located near four lakes where the SIU teams conduct pre-season open water training practices.

Kirsten agreed, "I'm really happy and excited about going to SIU next year. It is the best place for me. I can't wait to improve in the open water and work my way toward 2012."

Rick explains, "We start lake swims at the beginning of our season as a form of 'dryland' training. Our swimmers enjoy the change of scenery and we like the aerobic base it builds. While we gain very quick aerobic capacities, we are also limit the injuries that athletes might get in running and/or biking."

"The teams starts the season by going to the lake 1-2 times per week and ends their pre-season with a 5-7K open water swim. During our lake swims, the swimmers rotate fast cycles with easy cycles. The swimmers not only swim freestyle, but also incorporate other strokes in point-to-point swims. The swimmers also play catch-up between packs and have a practice-ending 'bagel swim' where the fastest swimmers get their choice of bagels at the end of their open water practice."

"By the time we begin our cycle of training, we are totally prepared and in shape for the rigors of the season in front of us. The swimmers are thrilled at the variety and if they don’t like the open water swims, they sure do talk up some great stories about them the remainder of the year," said Rick who is sometimes on an escort boat and sometimes gets in the water to demonstrate navigation or positioning tactics used at the Olympic 10K level.

"The end result is we start much better at the beginning of the season, we have less shoulder issues and less ankle or back issues while doing the open water training."

Photos by Isabel Madeira of the SIU team at Little Grassy Lake after a pre-season open water swim.

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