Growing up most little kids get in the pool and go swimming.
So, the idea of a swimming challenge seems like it should be pretty easy.
Then you get in the pool and see how different things are when you are trying to race against a high school swimmer.
For this challenge I hit the pool with Ryan Bennett of Waverly.
We swam three different 25-meter races. The one thing that was clear, Bennett is very fast, and I was very worn out by the time things were done.
For Bennett swimming started early as he started in around fourth grade, for the simplest of reasons.
“I don’t like basketball,” he said.
While swimming can look easy when you watch Bennett, it’s not that simple.
“A lot of people say, it’s not as easy as it looks,” Bennett said.
Swimming competitively is definitely a way to keep yourself in shape.
“It does keep you in shape, but it’s not for everyone,” Bennett said.
When it comes to events there is one thing Bennett doesn’t do, and that’s swim distance races as he focuses on the 50 free, 100 fly and sometimes 100 free.
“Not in distance, they don’t end well,” Bennett said.
There is plenty of distance swimming in practice, but it’s not the same as swimming distance in races.
“Distance in practice is easier than distance in a meet, because you aren’t going as fast as you can for long,” Bennett said. “You pace yourself in practice.”
One of the big things about swimming is the amount of work that goes into being at the level of someone like Bennett.
“It’s 365 days a year, six days a week, two times a day, lifting and swimming,” Bennett said.
That kind of dedication to the sport is something that Bennett started doing this year.
“About October of this year actually,” Bennett said. “My times dropped dramatically and I got in a lot better shape than I was.”
Now Bennett tries to work as much as possible.
“As many practices as I can get in a week,” Bennett said.
It wasn’t long ago that Bennett was looking up to the kids that put in all this work, now Bennett sees younger swimmers looking up to him.
“It’s nice to have people to look up to,” Bennett said. “I was that at one time. I looked up to the older kids and now I’m in their place. It feels like I’m doing something right.”
Bennett still has kids he can look up to, such as teammate Mike Atanasoff, and Bennett hopes to be a state qualifier like his teammate one day.
“I am hoping to qualify in the next year or two, we will see what happens,” Bennett said. “It motivates me because you want to be a part of something bigger than yourself.
“You see your friends do it and it’s something doable, not out of reach.”
Bennett has some goals in mind as he hopes to hit 22.9 in the 50 free and 58.6 in the 100 fly in his career.
One thing that may help him reach his goals is all the work that is being put in at Waverly.
“This is the first year we started swimming in the afternoons,” Bennett said. “After the regular season ended we used to swim in the morning. Now we swim everyday and lift every other day.”
The team is also doing offseason meets now.
Part of the reason for all the work is the dedication of the coaches at Waverly. Assistant coach Kyle Ackland works a lot of the summer stuff with the swimmers and the high school team is led by long-time head coach Dave Mastrantuono.
“We have the most dedicated coach probably in New York state, all-time” Bennett said of Ackland. “And our head coach is just the same, one of the best guys I know.
“They are not mean, not harsh, we always have a good time. That’s the one thing, if you don’t like your coach, you aren’t going to be happy.”
Another benefit for Waverly’s swimmers is having a top facility
“One of the nicest pools in the whole state I’d say,” Bennett said.
All of this has led Bennett to start focusing more and more on swimming.
“I am going to make it my primary sport next year,” Bennett said. “I do have a chance to swim in college, but football or baseball I never really had that great of chance. I feel like I’m a lot closer in swimming.”