UMass swimming and diving reaps the benefits of a trip to Puerto Rico

By Matthew Zackman

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(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

Many University of Massachusetts students spent their New Year’s bundled up inside, tucked away from the frigid temperatures. The Massachusetts men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams, however, did just the opposite.

The group of approximately 60 swimmers and their coaches spent a portion of their winter break in Puerto Rico. It was not all fun and games, as the goal of the trip was improvement.

“We improved our conditioning, we improved our skills and we improved our strength, power and speed,” men’s coach Russ Yarworth said. “You name it, we improved it.”

The teams completed a serious, high-level workout regimen over their 10 day stay in Puerto Rico. They spent five hours training during the day, which in the eyes of Yarworth brought home a better team than he had during the months leading up to the tropical excursion.

“Everyone has really done what I have asked of them and we are starting to make some real big strides, and the progress we have made has been really positive,” Yarworth said.

On the women’s team, Molly Smith blossomed over the span of the trip, according to coach Bob Newcomb.

“She has been the distance leader since she has been here and she has really done an exceptional job of continuing her training and being able to perform at a very high level during the hard training that we have been doing,” he said

Despite the remarkable improvement in the pool, the development of team chemistry grew by leaps and bounds.

They were surrounded by one another for 10 straight days with similar aspirations, which created a common bond. The time the team spent in Puerto Rico was instrumental in enhancing the togetherness of the group.

“We do so many things to try and get the team together,” Newcomb said.

“Being in Puerto Rico for those 10 days is one of the best things we do. Everybody enjoys the trip…they spend so much time laying around getting a little sun, finding different places to eat and doing different things together. It becomes a great bonding experience for everybody.”

The team took several afternoons off. In fact, for one of those afternoons the entire team traveled to a beach that neither Newcomb or Yarworth had been to in past Puerto Rico trips. There were opportunities for snorkeling and an up-close view of fish and coral.

“We have taken them to Old San Juan for shopping and to see some of the beautiful history,” Newcomb said. “We have also gone into the rainforest. If the swimmers have little trips that they want to do or see the island, we allow them to do that as long as it does not affect what they are doing training wise.”

Looking forward, both teams will continue their arduous training in anticipation of the Atlantic 10 swimming championships that are just around the corner in mid-February.

“The goal of our team is to perform at our best for that meet,” Yarworth said. “Our preparation is focused on that and we are finishing training camp and we have a couple more weeks of working on things.”

Matthew Zackman can be reached at [email protected]