DACA ROCKS! – DACA's Daniel Marella Blogs from Western Zone Select Camp!

This past May, DACA Age Grouper Daniel Marella was selected to attend the 2014 Western Zone Select Camp at Arizona State University. The prestigious camp provides some of the best young swimmers in the Western Zone the opportunity to train together and get to know one another. 28 Girls (ages 12-13) and 28 Boys (ages 13 – 14) were selected from California, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Idaho, Hawaii, and Alaska. Swimmers were selected based upon their overall performance across a wide range of strokes and distances. (Click Here to read about the full selection process). Congratulations and thanks to Daniel for taking the time to share his experience! DACA ROCKS!!

Day 1
I arrived at San Jose Airport to find three Western Zone Select Camp teammates (Brian Copley from PASA, and Vivian Wang / Cathy Teng from SCSC) waiting for me. We took pictures and quickly got through security. Next we filled our water bottles because the temperature in AZ was forecasted to be over 105 degrees every day of the camp. The flight went smoothly and the four of us were able to sit together for the 2 hour plane ride.

Finally we landed and were greeted by Coach Dan Greaves from the Santa Rosa Neptunes. Soon we met fellow campers Benji Wilmore from Swim Utah (I recently raced this guy Far Westerns - he is very fast!), Victoria Navarro from Las Vegas, and Josh Parmenter, Justin Ferrell, Isabela Boese from San Diego. We piled into a big van with ASU coach Dan Kesler. Once we arrived at ASU, we saw all the other athletes who had already arrived and walked to Jimmy John's for some delicious sandwiches. Here I met up with another PC swimmer who turned out to be my roommate for the camp - Alex Liang from PASA.

One of the memories from this lunch that stands out for me was when two very large men walked in and they turned out to be only 15 years old and part of the camp!

After receiving our dorm keys, we interviewed with the camp Head Coach Derek Howorth from San Antonio, Texas. He basically asked me what I liked about swimming and what my best events were.

We then went out into the blistering heat; the walk from the dorms to the pool scarred me for life. It was a long, long, long, hot, hot, hot walk to the pool!

We started to walk in our segregated groups based on our zones, and over time everyone was complaining about the heat - not the best way for a team to come together! We walked and walked and walked and walked - it was over 1.5 miles in dreadful heat…. ultimately we made that walk ~ 10 more times.

Once we entered the pool lobby, we threw our suits on and walked out on the deck. They split us into lanes based on 200 free times and I was towards the faster end, but in the middle group of the three. We warmed up for a good 1500 meters and then they pulled us out of the water. They said this would be a 'warm up practice'. This was a lie as we did sixteen 100s on the 1:25! I went second and was going surprisingly fast. After that we did technique work and got out of the pool only to walk back to the dorm in the scorching sun. Coach Derek said, "You're first water training is done. The reason why we're not doing dryland is because you're doing it walking to-and-from the pool." My thought was...."great!"

Next we had dinner in the cafeteria. I sat with Copley, Liang, Dale Williams (a former PC swimmer, who now swims in PN), and Jolen Griffin from PC. There was a large variety of food; I had a huge Caesar salad, pizza, fruit and a ton of water.

We then had ice-breaking activities. The first one was to find seven other people not from your LSC and form a circle. We were to raise our right hand, put it in the middle and grab someone else's hand. We were to do the same thing with our left hand. This is called the human knot. Let's just say I got to know some guys a little too well. One of them was Anthony Nosack from the Thunderbolt team in Oregon. We did a few more activities, and then we played air hockey and ping-pong with Isaac Stump from FAST AZ and Trey Freeman from Utah. Then it was lights out!

Day 2
I woke up at 5:30 because the sun streamed through our broken blinds. I was on a mattress on the floor because the bunks didn't seem safe - both Alex and I felt safer on the ground. We went to breakfast with our next-door neighbors Bryce Mefford from SN and Steven Medvedev from Hollywood, CA. Unfortunately, while I was filling up my water bottle, I rolled my ankle on the wet floor.

We walked to the pool around 8:00am - it was already 90 degrees. We all complained about the heat again, and I felt the effects of the rolled ankle during the long walk.

We split up into our best strokes and I went to the breaststroke lane. I was the slowest male breaststroker in the lane, and that was proven when we did sprint 100 and I went 1:16s and the next slowest guy was going 1:13s. A 1:16 converts to a 1:06 short course, which is pretty fast for practice. Anthony Nosack went a 1:09!.

We got out and changed into dry clothes. Then Justin Lynch, the National Junior Team Representative, arrived. We all walked over to the ASU Football meeting room and had a meeting about goal-setting. This kind of bored me because Coach Bill Thompson had already taught me everything they talked about. At the end of the meeting, National Teamer Maya Dirado came into the meeting room and walked back with us to lunch.

After lunch, Maya talked to us about her swimming life and how Coach Dan from Neptunes was her age-group coach. We then had our second practice.

This practice was pretty hard. The main set consisted of three 100s, the first one on the 1:20, the second on the 1:25 and the third on the 1:30. This was followed by two 50s all-out/choice, and two 50s sprint-kick same stroke as the 50s, and easy 300. Four times through. I was in going third and so was Maya (in the next lane). On the choice she was going a little faster than I was, but then on the kick she killed me!! Maya had to leave after practice. Then we all walked back to the dorms for dinner.

Dinner was the same as the night before - buffet. After dinner there was a quick meeting in the lobby, then free time. I hung out mostly with Trey Freeman and Rose Saya from Colorado. We played ping-pong and talked. After free time, we went to bed.

Day 3
Woke up at 6:45 am and went down to breakfast and then walked to the pool. This practice was definitely the hardest practice of them all.

After warm up, there were 2 main sets. The first set was:

  • 400 on the six minutes,
  • eight 50s on the minute (3 seconds slower than your 400 pace),
  • another 400 on the six,
  • six 50s on the minute (1 second slower than your 400 pace)
  • another 400 on the six,
  • four 50s all-out,
  • one last 400 on the six.

The second set was:
  • three 200 IMs on the 3:30,
  • four 50s on the minute. The first 50 was all-out fly, the next three 50s were easy freestyle.
  • Two 200 IMs on the 3:30,
  • four more 50s. The first 50 was sprint freestyle, the second was sprint backstroke, the next two were easy freestyle.
  • one more 200 IM on the 3:30,
  • four 50s, the first 2 were sprint freestyle, the 3rd was sprint breaststroke and the last was easy freestyle.
  • Then warm down!

We then got out of the pool and changed to dry clothes. We walked to the meeting room and had a meeting on nutrition. I learned a lot of interesting facts.

Then we walked back for lunch. Justin Lynch sat with our group.

We went back to the Football meeting room, and Justin talked to us about the National Junior Team. After Justin talked, one of the staffers named Bill Doughty from Davis, CA showed us weird swimming videos from the 1932 Olympics. Then we walked to the pool for our last practice.

During this practice we did something called "circuits" where a group of 8 randomly selected kids get assigned to one coach. I was grouped with Tucker Fisk from Davis, Alexander Qu from Southern California, and 5 girls.

The first circuit was called 'Thunder Thighs'. We had to grab the gutter and kick 10 seconds medium, 10 seconds sprint, 20 seconds medium, 20 seconds sprint, 30 second medium, 30 second sprint. We repeated that for 12 minutes.

The second circuit was called 'Indian Swimming'. It was a modification of something called the Indian Run. We got in a line and dove in right after each other, and the last person in line would have to sprint to get to the front of all the other swimmers. That cycle would repeat every 50 for 12 minutes.

The third circuit was called 'Rock Band or Race Horse'. The coach would say a name; if the swimmers correctly identified the name as either a rock band or a race horse name we would get to do a 50 of our choice. If we got it wrong, the coach would choose the stroke for a 50. We only got it right twice out of 7 times. We had to do a lot of corkscrew. By then I was dying (because I had to go to the bathroom!).

The fourth circuit was a backstroke drill with a ridiculous interval so no one made it. It was as many 100s on the 1:45, 25 kick, 25 right arm, 25 left arm, and 25 build.

The fifth circuit was a butterfly circuit. It was twelve 50s on the minute, the odd ones were 25 drill, 25 swim. The even ones were supposed to be a drill, but our coach changed it because we were so bad at it. We ended up doing flutter-fly, which is butterfly arms with a freestyle kick. The sixth circuit was a breaststroke circuit. We went into the short course pool - 8 lanes - 25 yards X 15 yards. We swam the 15 yard length doing underwater breaststroke on our back. We did 12 minutes of 15 yards.

The last circuit was also in the short course pool. We did something called Hypoxic, where we did as many rounds of six 25s as we could. The first 25 was 25 fly with 2 breaths only. The second one was fly with 1 breath. The last was fly with no breath. We did that twice to make six. Each 25 was on the 40. After that, we got out and Justin lead us through a Team-USA cheer. We then got out and changed, then walked back to the dorms for the last time for dinner.

We were all VERY happy that we didn't have to walk the 'death walk' again.

After dinner we had a quick meeting and then it was free time. In the beginning of the camp we were all segregated into our own LSCs. By the end of the camp this had all changed with everyone mingling with everyone. That night I found myself playing air hockey with Jack Blake from AZ and ping-pong with girls I didn't even know.

Day 4
We woke up at 7am and went down to breakfast for the last time. I ate more than I needed to, and then we had a meeting and we went through all of our flight information. I had 3.5 hours of free time. Anthony Nosack and I talked about the Thunderbolt Round-Robin meet where we had met and raced. Trey Freeman and I played ping pong with both Coach Dan's.

What I took out of this camp is that when we practiced together, everyone was super positive and it made practices a lot easier than they should have been. The camp taught me to prepare myself for success and failure because success isn't a straight line - it is like a car swiveling out of control. If you prepare for success by training hard every day, you'll get to a point where times just drop. The famous Kevin Durant said, "You fall down 7 times, you get up 8."

Head Coach Derek told us to go home and share what we learned with our team. Coach Bill Thompson gave me that opportunity when I returned. The main point I shared was that 'positivity' is something that will not only carry you through a super hard practice, but it will carry you through life. Later on during DACA practice, I heard the sarcastic remark that we had just 12 more, but even that was a lot better than someone saying that 'we're only 1/4 of the way through and we're all going to die'. I told our group that 'positivity' is something that we need to work on. The other thing that I hit hard with the group was that training hard doesn't make you any better. What does make you better is: 1) training hard, and 2) doing the right things so that you will recover well / quickly.

Coach Bill Thompson has asked us is, "Do you want to be the fastest swimmer in the group and the least respected? Or do you want to be the slowest swimmer in the group and the most respected?" The 'right answer' is the latter - I learned this at the 2014 Western Zone Select camp.