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Grand Forks’ Piranhas go to the ‘extreme’ training for regionals

Swim team’s training ‘Monsters vs. Aliens’-themed regimen
Members of the Grand Forks Piranhas competitive swimming team snatch up pool toys to form a “mothership” raft and ferry it as a team as part of a training exercise, with a fun twist, on July 27. The team had been in intense training for regionals later this weekend. Photo Karen McKinley

The training regimen for Grand Forks’ Piranhas got a fun, out-of-this-world twist as they prepare for regional championships.

The entire team has been undergoing intense conditioning and training for “extreme week” at the city’s community pool, on dry land and Christina Lake, but the coaches decided to make it more engaging with activities with a movie theme to take the edge off of preparing for major competition.

Exercises are designed to test their endurance and team-building abilities, as well as working under pressure and time constraints, said co-coach Jayden Leroy.

“This is the peak of the club’s competitive season,” she said. “We train hard all week, then we taper off heading into regionals. That way, it helps them get past competitions. We are upping the ante a little bit, but in terms of team-building, we are making it more fun.”

Training is still intense, Leroy said, but these exercises are meant to bring the team together for regionals, which are being held in Nelson, over the Civic Holiday long weekend.

Unlike previous years, coaches decided to make it more entertaining for club members. They chose to incorporate the animated movie Monsters vs. Aliens, with exercises based on characters and scenes in the film.

From Monday to Friday, the team did three events a day, whether it was swimming or dry land training. At night the team would do a fun activity, such as a movie, or activities like tie dye or a potluck meal.

On Thursday, team members hit the lanes to do relay races, with a “junk pile” scavenger hunt thrown in, with the theme that they were gathering parts to build an alien mothership. Leroy explained members had to swim to the other side, pick up a pool toy, and swim back. Eventually, the teams had to put the pile together and swim with it.

A previous exercise was doing “Bobs,” based on a character in the movie called Bob. Swimmers had to quickly bob up and down in the water to control their breathing.

It created a lot of turbulence and noise in the pool, which was the idea, Leroy explained. This helped swimmers learn to deal with pressure and performing tasks, while keeping focused on working together.

Friday morning saw the team on the public beach in Christina Lake doing speed relays, where members had to run into the water, do three butterfly strokes and get out quickly. But like all the training events, there were also fun activities including sandcastle-building.

After catching his breath from doing relays, Kent Armstrong, 14, said he wasn’t going to be at regionals due to an injury, but said he felt the team was ready for regionals.

For himself, he loves extreme week to get in some last-minute training. For the whole team, it’s a great way to get the whole club together as one unit.

“It’s a great way for those kids that may not be that into it having a little more ‘go’ because there’s something worth going for at the end,” he said. “For the bigger swimmers who do go hard for the whole practice, it’s nice to have something to push for. It’s so much fun to train like this because it’s points, games, so many rewards to work for.”

About the Author: Karen McKinley

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