NFA swim team battles inexperience, inclement weather

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Norwich - posted Sun., Feb. 13, 2011
NFA swimmers practice at Mashantucket Community Pool. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
NFA swimmers practice at Mashantucket Community Pool. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

Old Man Winter has been one of the Norwich Free Academy boys’ swim team’s worst foes this season.

“We’ve struggled with the weather,” said veteran swim coach Tom Theve. “A lot of meets have been postponed. We were only able to have two practices over Christmas break. It’s kind of frustrating, because I have a young team and I’d kind of like to bring them along.”

After losing its home pool two years ago when the Norwich YMCA closed, the NFA swimmers have been holding practices at the Mashantucket Community Pool. They share pool time with the New London team, which also has no home pool. “They’re practicing with us, so we split the pool. It’s kind of fun that way,” said Theve.

Unfortunately, the Mashantucket pool can’t host meets, so all the NFA meets are away. In addition, the practice pool often closes when there’s a threat of inclement weather, further limiting practice time for the swimmers.

Six of Theve’s 20 swimmers are freshmen. “A couple of them have had competitive experience, and one is a real natural – he picks it right up,” said Theve. They have the advantage of watching some older teammates who are in the school’s record books: Tyler Gronko and Justin Paz. The pair of seniors was half of last year’s record-setting freestyle relay team, and Paz also set a new NFA individual record in the butterfly.

“It’s been great to have that leadership,” said Theve. “The kids see some excellent swimming and that’s real helpful. They want to emulate it.”

The coach said that his youngsters have demonstrated marked progress since the beginning of the season. “They started to improve quickly,” he said. “Hopefully everybody can come back next year, because we are a young team.”

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