Asked what it’s like to dive into a swimming pool at six in the morning after getting out of bed about 30 minutes earlier, young Mount Pearl swimming star Gavin Dyke said something that sounded like, “Arghhh!”
St. John’s Legends standout Peter Gregory admits the early-morning plunge wakes you up, to say the least.
“You kind of get used to it, but every morning you’re, like, a little hesitant,” Gregory added with a laugh.
For local competitive swimmers, early morning plunges are as common as red eye.
Both Dyke, 15, and Gregory, 17, have similar, stringent training regimes that elite swimmers in the province have to endure and they understand sacrifice is part of the deal.
Talk about your hard-working athletes. Few exhibit the dedication this group routinely displays. It’s what top swimmers in Newfoundland and Labrador have to put up with if they are going to push themselves to record top performances and make national qualifying times.
“If you want to train on a national level, you have to practice in the morning and afternoon,” said Gregory. “Usually it’s the only avaliable time we have.”
Before Gregory even hits the water for a 60-minute workout, he’s required to do 15 minutes of dryland training, and then it’s off to school. He’s back to the pool after school and he often swims until 6:30 p.m. each evening.
He’s been practicing nine or 10 times a week since he was around 10-years-old.
Gregory admits he doesn’t have much of a social life though his teammates are also his friends and he makes time for school buddies. Of course, there’s school work as well.
“It’s all about balance,” said the Prince of Wales Collegiate high schooler, who has earned a scholarship to Memorial University where he hopes to compete for the Sea-Hawks and eventually earn a few Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) qualifying times.
Early-morning swims, dryland and weight training and practice for hours most days of the week during the season is what they have do endure if they want to take it to the next level of their sport.
It takes a special kind of grit to stick with it, but if you’ve grown to love the sport and you are determined to improve, you learn to adapt quickly or you walk away.
Still, sometimes quitting or cutting back seems like a sensible option to a teenager.
Dyke contemplated quitting the sport at one point in his young, still-developing career, and Gregory cut down on his practice attendance a year ago.
“Sometimes it’s really, really exhausting,” Gregory said of the the daily sessions. “The competitions are the fun part. So if you want to compete, you go to practice all the time, you know what I mean?”
“When you are in high school, it’s hard to be swimming 10 times a week and also have a social life.
“Last year, it was so exhausting, I went to less practices,” Gregory explained. “But I got right back into it this year. Practising less might not have helped me that year but, in the long run, I believe it will keep me swimming a lot longer.”
St. John’s swim coach Brad Hutton described Gregory as “definitely” one of the Legends’ most dedicated swimmers.
“He hadn’t been among our strongest swimmers, but he really turned it on this year. He was always good, but this year he’s been totally dedicated to really training hard all the time. He’s very focused,” Hutton said.
Dyke, who began swimming at nine, says he was 12 or maybe 13 when he felt like giving up competitive swimming.
“I was getting kind of overwhelmed with the practice schedule,” he said. “But after that time I was fine with it.”
The O’Donel High School student said he realized he was pretty good a year after taking up the sport and setting two provincial records.
“After that, I kind of wanted to keep doing it,” said the six-foot-four Dyke, who continues to break provincial records.
Except for that one season of uncertainty, Dyke has remained focused and has some long-term goals.
If that means swimming in the morning and evening with dryland training to boot, then so be it.
He has his sights set on attending the University of British Columbia for its swimming program, and would like to make the national team one day.
“That would be pretty cool,” he said, although to reach that sort of goal he admitted his training, “will beven more overwhelming.”
Besides the time he spends on personal training, Dyke also helps as a coach with Special Olympic swimmers.
Oh, yeah, and you can toss in a few yoga classes for good measure.
Mount Pearl Marlins coach Duffy Earle says Dyke exhibits “outstanding dedication” and, “he doesn’t let anything get in his way when it comes to his performance.
“He is one of the strongest swimmers our province has seen in a long time,” said Earle. “He’s constantly looking to improve. We certainly expect big things from him. He shows no signs of slowing down.”