Members of the Saint Mary’s men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams took an eight-day training trip to Puerto Rico during the holiday break, where they logged long two-a-day practices and lots of mileage in the pool. The trip also included a hike through the El Yunque rainforest to La Mina Falls. The trip was optional for the student-athletes and was funded primarily by the students themselves.

Coach Eric Lindquist had a rule against speaking up about the intense amount of training.

“You’re not allowed to complain because ‘You’re on an island’ and that’s what coach reminded us of at every practice,” sophomore P.J. Heller said.

The Cardinals practiced twice every day except for one off day and also participated in a meet — the 10th Annual Copa Coqui.

“It’s probably the biggest meet I’ve ever been to,” Lindquist said. The meet includes 52 teams over the course of the training season (Dec. 15-Jan. 15) and allows teams from Division I, II and III. The atmosphere is more like a party than a fierce competition with drumline bands and a DJ playing music nonstop.

“The trip was an amazing opportunity to both train in beautiful weather and also compete with other teams throughout the country that we would not normally be able to compete against,” senior Anna Smaron said.

And while the meet was a fun experience, it wasn’t stressed as a top priority for the trip. Instead being able to train in a 50-meter pool two times a day was perhaps the biggest benefit.

“The main focus of the trip is for training purposes,” Lindquist said. “The meet is part of it, but is not the focus. Our teams always have better seasons athletically when we have training trips and when we have a long-course pool it is even better.”

The athletes agree that training in a 50-meter outdoor pool with 85 degree weather is quite a bit different than being inside SMU’s 25-yard pool every day.

“It was a nice change in atmosphere,” Heller said. “It was a good change in structure with the pool and it kept things fresh.”

But the Cardinals also did more than just work out.

The hotel in Condado, Puerto Rico was just two blocks away from the beach and close to shopping. The team also took a hike through El Yunque rainforest to La Mina Falls. The group spent its off day at Flemenco Beach on Culebra Island where they took a ferry ride, went snorkeling on the reef, played water polo, hiked and enjoyed the white sand beach and palm trees.

“The trip gave us an opportunity to grow as a team and enjoy each other’s company while enjoying the beauty of the island,”  Smaron said. “My favorite part of the trip was hiking through the rainforest together as a team. It was great to be able to spend an afternoon together exploring and learning about an area that was unfamiliar to many of us.”

Divers in Puerto Rico

An optional excursion on the training trip was a scuba trip in Viequas. Eight of the SMU swimmers had received scuba certification through the Saint Mary’s physical education class and took a dive in Viequas — which Heller said was his favorite part of the trip.

“The trip was great,” Heller said. “It was a lot of fun.”

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