Long Course Prepares Swimmers For The Olympics


by Meredith Johnson

Jumping in the pool is a great way to cool off, but things are heating up for Long Island Express (LIE) swim club as they dive into the long course season.

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USA Swimming splits the year into two seasons: short course and long course. Short course is what is known as a “standard” 25-yard swimming pool, and swimmers train and compete in this season from September to April. Long course, commonly known as the “Olympic-sized swimming pool” length, requires swimmers to train and compete in a 50-meter pool from mid-May to early August.

Many swimmers enjoy this change of distance for various reasons; the change of pace and fewer flip-turns were common responses from Express swimmers. Katie, a swimmer from East Williston, commented, “I’m a distance swimmer, so fewer laps and fewer flip-turns help me drop time.” Sam from Farmingdale said she likes long course better because it means fewer laps, thus quicker races.

To the Express National team especially, the change of scenery was also a big plus. LIE typically trains indoor at Hofstra University Swim Center and Jericho High School during the short course season, but trains outdoors at Freeport Recreation Center during the long course season.

“I love being able to swim outside; it’s nice to be able to train and take advantage of the summer sun,” says Garrity Kuester, a swimmer on Express’ National Level team.

“I enjoy both because it’s nice to be outside. We focus a lot more lengthening the strokes in long course, especially in butterfly and backstroke. I think long course really compliments the swimmer,” commented Junior National Team Coach Rick Ferriola.

Long Island Express Swim Club takes great pride in the attention the coaches pay to its swimmers, and swimmers come back year after year to keep improving.

“What makes Express difference is that we tend to tailor the stroke to the swimmer’s body type, and clean strokes yield less injuries. We know what to focus on to help get each swimmer to the next step,” said Coach Kerrie Kolakowski. Winfield, a swimmer for Express’ national team, from Queens, said, “The friends I’ve made here are great people, and I love my coach Matt Rogers. I stay on because I work hard and I feel fit.”

Coach Gail Wakefield commented, “I love coaching because I have loved swimming my entire life, and it is a skill you can enjoy your entire life…Every time a kid messes up, I stop them and correct it so they don’t continue to do a stroke wrong.”
Gunther Cassell, current student-athlete at Pennsylvania State University and former swimmer of Express, had just returned from Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska, this past week, where he raced the 100 and 200 Breaststrokes. He accredited Express for helping him get to the next step in his life, where he shared the goal of many swimmers to swim in college. “Express helped me get on the college radar, for sure.”

When asked what it was like to swim among the best swimmers in the world, he replied, “It was surreal. You’re with all these guys that are the fastest in the country and, for some, in the world, and everyone belongs to be there. Everyone’s just trying to get their spot on the [Olympic] team.” Gunther shared that his favorite memory on Express was making the Olympic Trial cut in his junior year of high school at Nationals. “I got disqualified on my 200 breaststroke for a call I did not think was fair. When my coach [Matt Rogers] and I went back to change it, there was an umbrella that blocked the shot, and we could not justify the call. Twenty minutes later, I swam a time trial to redo the race, and that was it! I made the cut. It was unreal.”

Express Swim Club has been in existence for 28 years. The club offers professional instruction from renowned coaches for youth swimmers of all skill levels, from novice to national caliber athlete. Tryouts for the team will be at Hofstra Swim Center on Aug. 8 to 9 from 5 to 7 p.m. and Sept. 6 to 9 from 4 to 6 p.m., or contact Head Coach Rick Ferriola at liecoach@aol.com or Head Coach Rob Ortof at rortof@gmail.com to arrange a tryout.

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