Hard work, camaraderie pay off for ORR swimmers

Feb 7, 2020

The Old Rochester Regional High School swimming team is currently training for the state-sectional championship on Feb. 8 and 9. While the athletes bring different strengths and experiences to the team, they all agreed that hard work and a sense of camaraderie with their teammates has pushed them to achieve success. 

Sam Harris, Sean Lund, Colin Kuluk, and Michael “Skip” Holmes will compete together on a relay team, as well as individually in their own events. 

The girls team of Abigail Daniels, Ella Shultz, Jenna Durgin, and Sarah Besancon will race in the 400-meter freestyle relay, and Durgin will compete solo in the 100-meter fly.

The four boys broke a meet record on Jan. 30 at the South Coast Conference Championship with a 200-meter freestyle relay time of just 1:35.77. 

At practice on Feb. 6, the record-breaking relay team reflected on their season so far, and looked ahead to their next competition. 

“I think we’re all dedicated to the sport, and I think that’s what led to the breaking of the record,” said Holmes. 

Each of the boys have been swimming for about a decade, and according to Lund, this year has been a “season of hard work.” Regular practices at New Bedford High School started the week after Thanksgiving, but the relay team said they started training at the New Bedford YMCA even before that to get ready for the winter swimming season. 

The boys will face some tough competition on Feb. 9. “It’s down to the hundreth of a second,” Holmes said, as all of the swimmers will be competing at a high level. 

In addition to the 200-meter relay, Holmes will compete in an individual 200-meter freestyle. Harris will race in the 100-meter fly, Kuluk in the 200-meter individual medley, and Lund in the 500-meter freestyle. 

The boys all agreed that the relay race adds competitive pressure because they know that their teammates are depending on them to perform. 

They added that working as a team has brought them closer together, and that at this point in the season, they have developed a sense of timing for each other’s paces, and know exactly when to jump into the water during their relay races. 

Kuluk is a junior, and his three teammates are sophomores. While the boys may be a couple years younger than some of their competitors at state-sectionals, they showed no shortage of optimism, saying their goal was simply to place as well as possible. 

On the girls relay team, Durgin and Besancon are seniors, and Daniels and Shultz are freshman. The girls also emphasized camaraderie as a major takeaway from the season so far.

Durgin said that she tries to be a mentor to the younger girls, and that ”it’s comforting to know that they’ll be here for the next four years.” 

Durgin began swimming competitively at just 7-years-old, and recently committed to Merrimack College, a Division 1 team. 

Her advice for younger swimmers looking to follow in her footsteps was simple “if you stick with it, it will pay off.” 

In preparation for state-sectionals, Durgin said that she has been focusing on getting the best start as possible, and moving quickly and smoothly through the water. 

Besancon said her favorite part of competitive swimming is “the team itself.” 

While training as a relay team “you become like a little family,” she explained. 

Daniels said that in addition to loving her team, she enjoys swimming because “it’s a physical and mental sport,” forcing her to push herself to succeed. 

Shultz said that making it all the way to the state-sectional championship as a freshman feels “pretty unreal” and that she enjoys swimming because it is both an individual and team sport. 

According to coach Sarah Toltin, a typical practice for the team includes anywhere from 2,500 to 4,000 yards of swimming, as well as technical work to refine their starts, turns, and swimming form. 

The girls team will travel to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for the MIAA South Sectional Championship on Saturday, Feb. 8, with the boys competing on the next day.