Written by Vinny Messana, email@example.com Thursday, 09 January 2014 13:07
One wonderful aspect of sports is that no matter how much emphasis is put on individual performance, the team’s success is still the be-all-of-end-all. Even in the sport of swimming, individuals are forced to put their egos aside to help their team. According to St. Joseph’s sophomore Kim Mazza, who was just named Skyline Player of the Week for her performance, “Swimming is certainly a team sport. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my team. Although I am in the water by myself it still takes the team’s effort to win,” she added.
The elite swimmer had herself quite a week when she placed first in the 50-yard freestyle (28.68) and 500-yard freestyle (6:15.14) events on Dec. 21. Additionally, she was a part of the fastest 800-yard freestyle relay race in school history when Mazza, Lauren Ouzounian, Melissa Nocco and Gabriella Zollo combined to finish in 9:21:84. The team is off to a mediocre start to this point, but there remains a solid portion of the schedule for them to right the ship.The Bohemia native feels that her best event is the 100m freestyle despite the team’s success in the relay race. “I prefer the shorter distance,” she added. “I like to get in the water, go hard, and get out,” she added.
Those unfamiliar with competitive swimming may think this sport would simply come easy to those who enjoy to swim. That is not the case. “A lot of practice goes into it,” said Mazza. “We practice five times per week for two hours and we swim 6,000 yards.” To put that in perspective, that is the length of 20 football fields.
“If you do practice the right way, you’ll be exhausted,” she said. With practice taking such a physical toll on her body, there is no need to spend any time in the weight room. Whereas most sports would require athletes to feverishly work on building muscles, swimming is more focused on building terrific stamina, which is the most important aspect to swimming aside from technique.
“Stamina is one of the most important things in swimming because you have to be able to sprint for a while and keep going,” she said.
Mazza became interested in swimming when she was young. “I just had a pool in my backyard and I loved the water,” she said. “I went to the lessons and the person who taught the lessons was head coach of the Connetquot swim club, Alex Scichilone, who happens to be the varsity coach,” she added. She quit softball in sixth grade to focus solely on swimming. “Coach told me I was better than most of the kids on club and wanted me to join.”
She looks up to Olympic swimmers Missy Franklin and Ryan Lochte as inspirations. Despite only being 18-years-old, Franklin holds the world record for 200m backstroke and the American records for 100m and 200m long course. The four-time gold medalist also holds the world record for 4x100 medley race. Most impressively, she won an ESPY for Best U.S. Female Olympian at the age of 17.
Lochte is nearly as famous for his outspoken personality as he is for his swimming ability. The 29-year-old Rochester native has compiled five gold medals. He holds the world record n the 4×200-meter freestyle relay (long course). Individually, he currently holds the world record in the 100-meter individual medley, 200-meter individual medley (long and short course), and the 400-meter individual medley (short course). He has certainly help promote his own persona by appearing in various commercials and even on Saturday Night Live.
Although she looks up to these athletes, Mazza does not plan on pursuing swimming upon the completion of college. “I’ll always use it as a basis for my health but I will not be competing after college,” she said.
Becoming a professional athlete is a long shot for anyone, which is why parents always stress the importance of keeping your grades up. That is advice that Mazza has listened to. Through her first year-and-a-half in college she has compiled a GPA of 3.95. She intends on being a math teacher, and this year she will begin to put that dream to fruition when she starts her observations, which is the first step in the process. It may become difficult to balance her hectic schedule, but she is confident it will not affect her swimming routine.
Despite not swimming last year, Mazza has made a quick impact on the Golden Eagles squad in her first season. She feels that she had made adjustments this year already. “I’m still working to get back to the speed I was but I’m glad that I’m seeing the improvement throughout the season.”