The Irockets: dedicated young swimmers aim for regionals

irocket fly

Peter Gyurkovics demonstrates resolve and fine technique as he practices the butterfly stroke in preparation of a weekend of competition at the Upper Valley Aquatic Center in White River Junction. He is a member of the Irockets swim team, which had to start practicing at Lyndon State College when IROC closed. The ten-year-old finished first in several races. Photo by Joseph Gresser

by Joseph Gresser

copyright the Chronicle 11-13-2013

LYNDONVILLE — A dedicated pod of young athletes were churning the waters of the pool at the Lyndon State College (LSC) Fitness Center Thursday evening.  It was dark and cold outside, but steamy inside where the 13-member Irockets team was focused in a training regime that requires swimming as much as two miles in an hour and a half session, according to Ted Chitambar, one of the team’s coaches.

The team got its start seven years ago at IROC, hence the Irockets name.  Swimmers decided to keep the name even after the Derby fitness center closed and its building was bought by Sticks and Stuff, a building supply company.

irockets butterfly

While doing the butterfly stroke a swimmer almost lifts herself out of the water. Grace Miller shows how it’s done. Photo by Joseph Gresser

That company’s plans call for the pool there to be filled in, a prospect that coach Veronika Jedlovszky said she still has trouble thinking about.  Like Mr. Chitambar, Dr. Jedlovszky, a pulmonologist at North Country Hospital, volunteers to work with the team.

While at IROC, Dr. Jedlovszky said, the team practiced five days a week, but with the trip over Sheffield Heights involved now, they’re down to a four-day-a-week schedule and may have to cut that back to three days.

After IROC closed, Dr. Jedlovszky said she would have been willing to throw in the towel, but the swimmers weren’t ready to get out of the water.

“In the end, it was the kids who decided that we put it back together,” she said.

Even so, team membership dropped from 34 when it was based in Derby to 13 at LSC.  Dr. Jedlovszky said a few youngsters from Lyndonville joined the Irockets, bringing their numbers up to 17.

irockets coach

Coach Adam Lodewyk gives some pointers to McKenna Wales. Mr. Lodewyk swam with the Irockets until he graduated high school. When the team started practicing at Lyndon State College, where he studies computer science, Mr. Lodewyk volunteered to help coach. Photo by Joseph Gresser

The team was organized seven years ago by Dr. Jedlovszky and Dr. Peter Stuart, a colleague at North Country.  Mr. Chitambar signed on as a coach the following year.

Dr. Jedlovszky said several crops of swimmers have been on the team since the beginning.

One advantage of moving the program to LSC is Adam Lodewyk.  He attends the college, where he studies computer science, and has signed on as a coach.

Mr. Lodewyk was one of the original Irockets before graduating from high school and heading to academia.

All of the coaches are volunteers, and parents spend a lot of time helping out.  In addition to carpooling to get their swimmers to and from practices, and traveling with them to swim meets, parents worked to raise money to keep the pool at IROC heated when the organization was in financial difficulties.

“We raised $30,000 for two straight years,” Dr. Jedlovszky said.

In the pool on Thursday, the swimmers were finishing swimming laps.  One pair of girls cruised the length of the pool spiraling as they switched from a crawl to a backstroke.

Dr. Jedlovszky laughed.  “They think they’re doing something, but that’s not really part of the training.”

She and Mr. Chitambar soon had the swimmers out of the pool and lined up across the deep end ready to practice sprints.

At IROC the pool was equipped with starting blocks, small perches with handholds that help swimmers spring forward into the water.  At LSC, there are no blocks, so the swimmers practice without.

Mr. Lodewyk stood alongside the pool and called out “ready, set…”  One girl dove into the pool as her teammates laughed.

“You’re not going to do that at the meet?”  Mr. Lodewyk asked.  The girl assured him she would not.

irockets diver

Showing fine form Liam Bailey-Rowe dives in to practice sprinting. Swimmers speed down the pool, do a racing turn at the end — a maneuver that resembles a half somersault followed by a twist — and return to their starting point. Photo by Joseph Gresser

The swimmers then made clean starts, each plowing down his or her lane demonstrating a variety of strokes.  Some practiced freestyle, the stroke known to non-racers as the crawl, others the breaststroke.

Most impressive were those whose specialty was the butterfly stroke, the fastest means of traveling in water.

Ten-year-old Peter Gyurkovics, an amazingly speedy swimmer, displayed fine form as he brought both arms overhead and pulled himself through the water like a boat propelled by a pair of oars.

The swimmers were getting in a final day of practice before heading down to the Upper Valley Aquatic Center in White River Junction for a weekend of racing.

Dr. Jedlovszky said the goal is to reach the regional competition.  Success at local races such as the one in White River qualify swimmers for wider competition, she said.

The meet, which included hundreds of swimmers representing teams from around the state, took place over three days — Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  Swimmers and their parents paid for lodgings, as did the coaches.

According to an e-mail sent by one of the parents, Gwen Bailey-Rowe, midway through the competition, “The kids are blowing last year’s times out of the water. They are in shape, and ready for the rest of the season.”

After the meet, Ms. Bailey-Rowe reported that “Peter Gyurkovics, took first in 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard breaststroke, 50-yard breaststroke, 100-yard individual medley and 50-yard butterfly for the ten and under age group.”

“Gabriella Gyurkovics, McKenna Wales, Logan Wales, Liam Bailey-Rowe, Grace Miller, and Josie Chitambar had many personal bests,” she added.

All of the Irockets qualified for at least one event in the regional competitions, Ms. Bailey-Rowe said.  They will have opportunities to qualify for more events when they compete in December.

contact Joseph Gresser at joseph@bartonchronicle.com.  For more free sports stories, please see the sports category on this website.  Better yet, subscribe to the print or online edition of the Chronicle.

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