Vancouver, WA — The Columbia River Swim Team (CRST) is in peak training season with twice-a-day practices as the team prepares for the Long Course State Championships in late July, and Future Nationals in August.
The club team, and its dozens of members practice at Cascade Athletic Club in Vancouver, and also at Mt. Hood Community College for some of its long distance events. For most, they compete all year long, battling cold swimming pools, inclement weather (even in June) as the swimmers jump from a cold pool onto the rainy cold deck, and discuss improvements with their coach Darlene Hill, or Mike Bemis, who themselves struggle to maintain body warmth for hours.
Practices focus on building endurance, improving kicks and strokes, relay exchanges, timing, and dry land strength training — to name a few topics. The swimmers take their sport seriously, acknowledge the work involved, but are able to joke about the experience.
“We smell like chlorine all the time,” said a smiling Max Dolbinin, 18, who graduated from Heritage High School in June. “And it kind of bleaches your hair, especially during summer. We get these facial goggle tanlines, and those changing Speedo tanlines.”
Then, a laughing Andrew Chang chimes in.
“Sometimes you have problems untying your suit,” said Chang, 18, who graduated from Union High School in June. “You have to change slowly because the string can get really messed up.”
They laugh at themselves, but they also love what they do.
“I’m a sprinter,” said Dolbinin. “I compete in the 50 Freestyle, Butterfly and Breaststroke. And, I do this because this sport is really competitive, and it takes a lot of strength — both physically and mentally. I really like the competition, and the friends that we make.”
The 10-year swimming veteran said he appreciates the friendships most.
“We see each other twice a day, with two-hour practices,” Dolbinin added. “And, you just really become good friends.”
Chang, also a 10-year swimmer, said he just loves being in the water.
“It soothes me, it’s my way to relax and de-stress from the pressures of the day,” Chang said. “We make good friends also, and you get to meet people from all over the state.”
Chang said people think swimming is easy, but that’s not so.
“They don’t see all the training and preparation that comes with it, “Chang said. “They don’t understand the amount of physical strength that comes with it. It’s a hard sport. It’s high intensity all the time.”
Chang will be swimming at Carleton College this Fall in Minnesota, and looks forward to continue swimming competitively.
Maddy Wick, 12, is preparing herself for State, and will compete in the Backstroke, Butterfly and Freestyle. Annette Chang is also competing in the same events. Lily Seitz said she’s working on Butterfly.
Twelve-year-old Sammy Empey set a new 11-12 year old record in the 200 Fly at Summer Blast 2 in June. Empey’s time was 2:50.33, which surpassed Chang’s long-held record by 7 seconds.
“I swim because it’s fun to me,” said Empey. “I just love the competition. I mainly compete in the Butterfly and Freestyle sprints. I may do IM’s in the future, we’ll see.”
The swimmers compete at Summer Blast #3 today at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham. The meet is way for them to prepare for State.
To learn more, visit www.crstwaveriders.org