New Program Pushing Swimmers to be Best
Garden State Master Swimmers class will be held at the Bridgewater location and others.
Inspired by her husband’s leap into triathlon sports, Sue Lockhart decided to become a triathlete too. But while she could run and bike, she didn’t have the stamina to swim.
“Somewhere, in the first five minutes of every swim, I thought of quitting,” said Lockhart, 56, of Hillsborough. “And I was usually one of the last in my age group to leave the water.”
That changed after three months of practice with Somerset Valley YMCA’s new Garden State Masters Swimming Team. In January, Lockhart entered an Olympic distance triathlon with a 1,500 meter swim in the Gulf of Mexico. She cut four minutes off her time, and was out of the water before other swimmers.
“Everyone I swim with at the Y pushed me further than I would push myself,” said Lockhart, pleased with her improved performance.
With the Y already fielding a state championship youth swim team, adding a competitive swim program for adults led by certified coaches was a natural next step, according to Masters Swim Coach Dan Roth.
Aimed at adults over 18 years, the Somerset Valley YMCA’s Garden State Masters Swimming started in October with practice at the Raritan Valley Community College pool, and, on Feb. 6, added practices at the Somerville Y. About two dozen people have joined, coming regularly to practices held in the early mornings and mid-afternoons.
“Our SVY youth swim team is operating at a very high level and swim team Coach Matt Donovan and I wanted to put a program in place for adults that could grow at a similar pace as a competitive team. We feel we have a nice start to it,” Roth said.
The YMCA’s Garden State Masters Swimming program is affiliated with the nationally recognized U.S Masters Swimming Association, which organizes workouts, clinics and competitions for adults to improve their health and fitness. Swimmers can compete in U.S. Masters sanctioned meets.
In the YMCA program, swimmers range in athletic ability. Their reasons for getting in the water vary—some want to get fit, others are training for triathlons while still others are former high school and college swimmers who miss the pool. The one thing most share is a love for swimming.
Todd Lewandowski, 40, of Branchburg, is a former Rutgers University swimmer who set school records in distance swimming. After 15 years of not swimming, he joined the SVY Masters Swimming group to get back in shape.
A few months later, Lewandowski was doing a 100-yard butterfly and was planning to compete in US Masters Association swim meets.
“I’ve noticed some differences already,” said Lewandowski. “I feel better overall, I’ve lost a little bit of weight. And every day I go swimming is a better day for me.”
One of his teammates is Shayne Veramallay, 34, of Hillsborough, who is also a former competitive swimmer and who enjoys the 6 a.m. workouts and the camaraderie of being part of a team again.
“I love it,” he said. “I won’t miss a practice.”
Veramallay likes the mix of swimmers in the program and said he’s seen some who could barely complete two laps, but are now able keep up with the others.
“It’s like night and day from when they first started out,” he said.
Roth said he hopes that some of the team members will feel ready to compete in meets in spring.
In Somerville, Aquatics Director Frank Oliver said he wants to eventually host meets in the YMCA pool.
There are spots for more swimmers on the team. The cost for the Y Garden State Master’s Swimming program is $60 a month for Y members, or $120 for non-members. Practices are held primarily at the Somerville YMCA and at Raritan Valley Community College in Branchburg, with one Bridgewater YMCA practice a week.
Please visit the YMCA website at www.ymca-sv.org and look under Adult Aquatics Programs for registration and schedules.