Michael Hallock’s summers in high school had a pretty simple structure – swim plenty of club meets for the purpose of gaining college interest.
But once the All-Met graduated from Oakton last year and enrolled at Virginia Tech, he had reached the goal on which he focused for so long. It left him wondering: What do you do with your summers now?
“It’s a different kind of motivation,” Hallock said. “In high school, you’re just trying to get to college. Now, that you’re in college, you’re trying to get faster
“In high school, it was more camaraderie-based group. In college, it’s a more performance-based group, like, you do well, or else. You have to work so much harder in the summer.”
Some of the area’s top swimmers from the Class of 2009 spoke recently about how their first year of college affected their training and perception of both the sport and themselves. No longer are they the dominant ones on their teams or even their leagues. Now, they are among others who were just as dominant in their respective high school leagues and the competitiveness is perhaps the most challenging difference
“I didn’t think it was possible, but I’m swimming more this summer” than last year, said Rachael Burnett, who just completed her freshman year at West Virginia after graduating from Annandale.
Burnett spent the first summer semester in Morgantown training. While there, she did four two-a-day practices each week, whereas last summer she’d only have a morning swim, which was more perfunctory than anything, she said.
This past school year, though, opened Burnett’s eyes to possibilities she didn’t think she could attain. She was on West Virginia’s 400 freestyle relay team that earned honorable mention all-American recognition. Burnett saw that she could compete with some of the nation’s elite, and set her sights on this month’s U.S. Nationals.
“I realized this year that [qualifying for] Nationals was a possibility,” she said. “Last year, I was just focused on getting ready for school.”
Nationals are the furthest thing from Brady Fox’s mind, which he never imagined at this time a year ago. Fox was a two-time All-Met at Georgetown Prep, registered all-American times in both the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke and was expected to step right in and help Virginia claim its 11th ACC title in 12 years.
While the Cavaliers did win the conference, they did it without Fox who was diagnosed with a rare degenerative disk disease in his back last fall before the start of the season. Surgery was not an option, and Fox said, swimmers have a 50-50 shot of returning after a prolonged period of rest.
“My summer was a lot different than everyone else’s because I was injured and out of the water for so long,” Fox said. “I’ve spent the summer in the water getting back into shape.”
Fox didn’t even get back into the pool until last Feburary, and could only sustain 10 minutes and no more than 1,000 yards of swimming. It wasn’t until late May that Fox was able to resume his typical training of four hours per day, totaling as many as 8000 yards.
If he hadn’t been injured, Fox said, “I would have stayed down at school. Everything would have been different if I had stayed down there and trained with the guys there. I would probably be training for nationals now.
“But I know I’m lucky that [the rest] worked out.”