Chanhassen girls' swim coach, Kristin Nicholson talks with swimmers Zoe Avestruz (left), Kaia Grobe (center) and Bridgette Grobe during practice Friday, September 13 at Chaska Middle School. ] (SPECIAL TO THE STAR TRIBUNE/BRE McGEE) **Kristin Nicholson
As Kristin Nicholson put it, swimming is a “training sport.”
“And there’s no question that there’s a daily grind to get to where you want to be,” Nicholson said. “You train so hard and so long for maybe 30 seconds in the water at one time. It’s a hard sport.”
The Chanhassen girls’ team, which Nicholson coaches, just makes it look easy.
The Storm came into this fall as one of the elite programs in the state, despite only actually being an official, independent team for less than five years. The team returns two of the state’s best swimmers in juniors Zoe Avestruz and Kaia Grobe, and those two have a slew of teammates poised for breakout seasons.
In just a handful of meets so far this fall, Chanhassen already is making waves, dominating the competition with a number of girls hitting times that are faster than their “peak” cuts at state and sections a year ago. The Storm is 2-0 in dual meets and finished fourth in the gold division of the Minneapolis South Invitational.
It’s easy to see why the Storm entered the season as the No. 6-ranked team in Class 2A. It’s a little more complicated to see how it has gotten here.
The simple answer: “Just a lot of hard work playing off,” Avestruz said. “Everyone’s working a lot harder. … It’s stroke technique, underwater turns — all those little things that make that big difference.”
The more complicated answer revolves around a successful mix of talent and unique training, a practice regimen that Nicholson’s swimmers utilizes to keep themselves fresh mentally and physically while tapering their times for the end of the season.
“We know how to have fun with it,” Grobe said.
“We work really hard, but you can’t be serious the whole time,” Avestruz added. “If you’re too serious, then you start to stress and worry, and it’ll get to you. You have to relax and work on what you need to work on.”
That’s why this season Nicholson has added a new dry-land program. They have out-of-pool workouts multiple times each week, where they work on core training through plyometric or abdominal circuits, each targeting swim-specific muscles.
“It’s our job as coaches to balance them between working really hard to peak at the right time and not getting burned out,” Nicholson said. “We try to change it up.”
The results, though, should be roughly the same, the coach said.
A year ago, Chanhassen finished fourth in the Class 2A state meet. Avestruz won individual titles in the 100-yard backstroke and 100-yard butterfly. Grobe’s pair of championships came in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle races, two events she also won as a freshman.
This fall, both girls are hoping to break state records in those events. Nicholson said at the rate the girls are progressing, the records should fall at some point this season.
Both Avestruz and Grobe are quick to point out that two swimmers don’t make a successful team; it’s the Storm’s impressive top-end depth that makes them a threat at any meet they attend.
Senior Bridgette Grobe, Kaia’s older sister, is another swimmer who could pull off a high finish at state. Another is Kylie Dahlgren, who recently set a new pool record (the Storm share a facility with nearby Chaska) in the 200 IM. Shelby Holmes, Nicole Bogenreif, Maria Currie and Megan Davidson are also swimmers who Nicholson expects big things from this fall.
In the end, Bridgette Grobe said, it’ll be team’s approach that helps them succeed.
“We have an experienced team, and we kind of know how to go through it,” she said. “It’s just doing what you’re supposed to do, and it makes everything feel easier.”