October 27, 2011
Puma Aquatics swimmer Zachary Stevens spent this past weekend at the USA Swimming National Select Camp, a camp that featured some of the most talented young swimmers in America.
The camp took place at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and ran from October 27th to 30th. Members of the camp were the two fastest individuals in their respective events for their age group in the nation.
In all, there were 30 male roster spots and 30 female roster spots. There was a coaching staff for the men and a separate staff for the women. Each staff had a head coach, a manager, and three assistants.
The swimmers ate, roomed, and trained together for the duration of the camp. They also took classes and learned about race strategies, nutrition, training plans, and other things designed to help make them even faster.
“The goal was to provide our up and coming national and international level athletes a chance to come together and train and attend classes that ranged from nutrition to goal setting to drug testing,” women’s head coach Allison Beebe said.
Another objective was to bring elite young swimmers together, and give them the opportunity to train in the unique and challenging environment of the Olympic Training Center.
“The workouts were harder than normal, and the altitude made them hurt like crazy,” Stevens said. “It takes about four days to get used to swimming at 6,000 feet, and the camp was only four days long.”
Although its altitude made workouts more difficult, it was just one of the things that made the Olympic Training Centera special place to be, Stevens said.
“Everything is geared toward training better and getting faster,” Stevens said. “The food in the cafeteria is really healthy, the pool is really good, and everyone that is there is there to get better.”
The coaches of the athletes also attended the camp, and were separated from their swimmers at the beginning of the camp. They then attended classes that were designed to complement the classes their athletes were taking. Puma coach Rich Firman accompanied Stevens to Colorado Springs.
“The coaches had a track of classes that they took, and what we saw is that the classes we took were beefed-up versions of the classes the athletes took,” Firman said. “We got to see what the athletes were learning and then get a little more in-depth explanation.”
Stevens, who is a sophomore at Arroyo Grande High School, qualified for the 15-16 age group. His performance at the 2011 Junior Nationals this past August was the key to his selection for the camp. Junior Nationals features some of the most elite 18-and-under swimmers in the country.
At that meet, Stevens finished fourth in the 100-meter breaststroke with a time of 1 minute, 4.28 seconds. He also placed 12th in the 200 breaststroke, posting a time of 2:19.98. With those times, Stevens qualified for the 2012 Olympic Trials in both breaststroke events. He is currently preparing for the Trials, where he will be one of the youngest competitors.
But the lessons taught at the National Select camp do not just apply to Olympic Trial qualifiers.
“I think the most valuable thing I learned was that it’s the little things that were separating these elite swimmers from the rest of the field,” Firman said. “And it’s not just that they do the little things when their coaches tell them to. They do them all the time.”