Swim team trains in Puerto Rico

By Christopher Blake
January 31, 2008

Megan Pellegrino

Although a trip to Puerto Rico sounds like the perfect winter escape, the Cabrini swim team was not spending its time on sandy beaches lying in recliners. Instead they set out with a goal in hand: to bring an up-and-coming program even greater success.

Now in his fifth season at Cabrini, Coach Mike Kernicky was the initiator of his team’s winter excursion. His son, Michael Kernicky, swam at Villanova University from 1999-2003 and his team made the exact training trip Cabrini made.

“I did not want to recreate the wheel of trying to find a new place. If Villanova found success training away from campus so could Cabrini,” Kernicky said.

The only major difference between the planning of a trip by Villanova and Cabrini is the finances.

A major Division I program has the necessary funds to send its athletes on trips without taking money out of their pockets. A Division III program on the other hand, has limited funding and it is up to the coaches and athletes to fundraise for their trips.

From the spring to fall of 2007 the swimmers did their best to fundraise money for their trip. These efforts included selling 40 raffle tickets for $10 a piece for either a Philadelphia Flyers or 76ers game in a luxury box, sending letters to family and friends with personal notes and pictures through a program on Mysportsdreams.com and holding swimming clinics every Friday afternoon and Sunday morning teaching children from ages 5-15 the fundamentals of swimming.

Without fundraising, the most one athlete would have to pay was $850 but after all of the team’s hard work many only had to pay a small fee and some nothing at all.

“It did cost a lot of money but at the same time it was definitely worth all of the fundraising,” sophomore Anne Konicki, an exercise science and health promotion major, said.

Since 2003, the Cabrini swim team has doubled its win total each year. From one win in 2004 to its first-ever winning season last season featuring a 7-2 mark. Not only has the women’s team improved each year but last season a men’s team was introduced.

But with all the success there is a price to pay. Thus, welcome to Puerto Rico.

The team trained twice daily from 6 a.m.-8:00 a.m and 2 p.m.-4 p.m. at the Caparra Country Club of San Juan working on their fastest times, long yardage and extreme intensity.

“I actually enjoyed our long practices because I saw a difference in my swimming abilities. I came back from the trip stronger, more explosive and excited for the rest of the season,” freshmen Kyle Teliszewski, a history and education major, said.

After a long day of training, the team came closer together each night at the dinner table, in the hotel or out sight seeing Puerto Rico.

“We are a young program. A trip like this brings a team together. By the end of our time in Puerto Rico it was clear the team was more enthusiastic in their training along with their overall morale,” Kernicky said.

The team not only gained vital strength in the pool but also made large cultural strides or rather strokes during their time in Puerto Rico.

“It was cool seeing a different part of the world and being exposed to something we do not see everyday,” Teliszewski said. “Puerto Rico was basically America but more people speak Spanish.”

Following their hard months of training, a taper period of 10 days to two weeks begins with fewer yards, attention to details and concentration on the mental aspect of swimming.

Then, prior to a meet against Swarthmore College on Jan. 26, swimmers shaved their entire bodies to give themselves a slippery advantage over the competition.

“Our meet with Swarthmore is a huge step for this program. It is a sign that bigger programs are willing to compete against us,” Kernicky said.

Cabrini swimmers hope to do their very best in relays, distance events, sprints and prime events against Swarthmore so they can qualify for the ECAC tournament, which could lead to the NCAA Championships.

“This has been our best season yet. We have more kids that get it. This season has been especially rewarding as a coach,” Kernicky said.

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Christopher Blake

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