Rutgers swimmers break down how race, season could turn


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Photo by Tian Li |

Senior Greta Leberfinger dissected the importance of turns in races, saying it can be detrimental to a swimmer's finish.


There are many elements that are important in a swimmer’s skillset, but none may be more important than their turns in a race.

While some may argue that the start of a swimmer’s race is very important, head coach Phil Spiniello argues otherwise. Instead, he points to the quantity of turns in a race because it can make up for a poor start.

“Turns help carry momentum in and out of the wall,” Spiniello said. “If they are used correctly, they will not slow you down — but if used incorrectly, they can slow down your momentum and tempo.”

Sometimes, it may depend on the length of a race, especially when swimming one or two laps. This means the start may be more crucial in that situation, according to senior Greta Leberfinger.

There are two types of turns in swimming: the open turn and the flip turn.

The open turn is where the swimmer touches the wall, with one or two hands depending on the requirement for the stroke, not grabbing and bringing legs to the wall in a tuck-like position, followed by turning on the wall to face the opposite end of the pool and push off in a streamline to begin a new lap.

Flip turn is when the swimmer swims to the end wall, tucks, does a forward flip and pushes off in streamline.

The type of stroke dictates what turn the swimmer must do.

“I think turns are one of my strong points — tight fast turns especially under water kicks off the wall,” said junior Morgan Pfaff. “If you have strong kicks then you use them to your advantage so we work a lot on that in practice.”

Turns in the pool can dictate how an individual performs and can be the difference in whether they win or set a new personal best.

“Short course-turns are the race especially for longer distances,” Leberfinger said. “You can win a race just for having good turns ... when they do have good turns and are neck and neck with other swimmers, you can tell who is going to get ahead. With the pool being so short, 25 yards, you have to get off your walls as fast as you can to get ahead and pull ahead.”

In order to have great turns, Spiniello feels you must perfect the proper technique and get the fundamentals down in this way every time you do during practice; it becomes “muscle memory.”

To perfect the technique, in practices they do a lot of work with paddles and fins to improve their speed and momentum when in the pool and then going into the turn. It may sound cliché, but practice does make perfect when it comes to turns especially through repetition, Spiniello said.

Leberfinger said exhaustion in practice is the best time to master turns in preparation for the upcoming meet.

“One of the best ways is what we do is through a main set and you are tired, you’re dying and sore,” Leberfinger said. “You have to focus on working your turns and it helps, because when you get to a meet and your tired pushing it, you think back to that main set — it becomes second nature and motivates you.”

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Ryan Moran

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