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Coached by Laurie Bossard, the SCV’s Master Swimmers

Posted: July 8, 2012 1:30 a.m.
Updated: July 8, 2012 1:30 a.m.

Flora Wong swims during a workout with the Santa Clarita Masters Club at the Santa Clarita Aquatic Center.

 

On a cold, dark winter morning in January, Albert Giacomazzi hangs his neatly pressed pants and shirt in the men’s locker room at the Santa Clarita Aquatic Center.

He is mentally preparing for a new day directing the building of some of the most prestigious construction projects in Southern California.

Giacomazzi has at least a 16-hour day before him which will end in teaching as an adjunct professor at UCLA.

On the same morning, Tracey Bailey, a young mother, crawls out of bed, wakes her children, gets them to school.

Bailey begins to think of all her daily responsibilities as she starts her car that dark morning and heads to the Aquatic Center.

In the black hours before Cheri Ellington goes to the beach to spend a weekend pulling people out of dangerous cross-currents, nasty breaking surf and rip tides, she drives through the foggy morning to the Aquatics Center.

And as the three athletes prepare for another early morning workout, their thoughts shift to something they have in common.

Giacomazzi, president of AMG Construction, Bailey, a housewife and Ellington, a Los Angeles County lifeguard, are beginning to think about their addiction to their sport and to their group.

They are part of the Santa Clarita Masters Club.

As diverse in their swimming as they are in their lives and occupations, their common love of swimming and of their coach has made the Masters Club swimming program one of the fastest growing clubs in Southern California.

Once an inconsistent, stagnant program, the club has shown a remarkable growth of 142 percent under Coach Laurie Bossard.

“When I took over two years ago, we only had 35 members,” said Bossard, a former competitive swimmer herself.

It isn’t easy to build the team she wants, she said.

“My day starts at 4:30 a.m., six days a week, and ends at 8 p.m. when I get home from practice,” she said.

This is in addition to her 40-hour-plus workweek and weekend meets one or two times a month

“I believe that in two years this team can support a full-time coach and a part-time assistant,” Bossard said.

Swim meets have been another success for the team and Bossard.

The team’s rankings have steadily climbed as the Santa Clarita Master Swimmers consistently place in the top five against older teams that are more than twice as large.

Brossard’s growing reputation and workouts are attracting beginning, intermediate and advanced swimmers.

“Talent attracts talent. The increase of young adult swimmers coming into the program after swimming in college has really benefited (the program),” she said.

Just ask former Olympian Trygg Helgason.

“I swam at Santa Clarita from 2003-07, and then I got transferred to Las Vegas from 2008-11,” Helgason said.

Helgason, a former Swedish National Team and Icelandic Olympic team member, was surprised when he returned last year.

“During the time I was gone, the Santa Clarita program developed tremendously,” he said. “We have a very good coach now, and the number of swimmers training on a regular basis has increased substantially.”

The diversity doesn’t stop with the variety of occupations on the team. It includes abilities from beginners to elite swimmers, said Greg Horowitz, a former college swimmer.

How does she do it?

“Laurie breaks each set’s time interval into three levels, “A” group, “B” group and “C” group, so all levels of swimmers can complete the workout without feeling left behind, and yet  challenged,” said Horowitz.

“A” group swimmer Mario Marshall, a personal trainer, set a masters world record in 2006 for the 100 butterfly, a 2007 USMS record in the 100 fly and an all-time top 10 record in the 100 fly. He is training for a future Olympic spot.

“(Bossard) knows how to design programs for any level of swimmer,” Marshall said. “Coach Laurie is very good at what she does and makes sure that she does everything in her power to help you reach your goals.”

New swimmer Leda Whitmer, a dentist, fits right into Bossard’s multilevel coaching strategy.

“When I met Laurie, she was so sweet and encouraging that any sense of intimidation about swimming with the big boys faded away. Of course, I could only focus on executing the drills she taught me as I was swallowing half the pool,” she said with a grin.

Now, Whitmer said things have changed.

“My times are faster. I’ve even won some ribbons at the two swim meets I’ve competed in,” she said.  

Others have found a new home in which to continue their swimming careers.

“The masters swim program has given me another chance to race and compete in a fun environment. It has renewed my passion,” said Christopher Stroh, former collegiate swimmer.

Veteran Masters Club swimmers like Lisa Valenti like what they are seeing.

“She (Bossard) totally turned (the club) around. She is committed to growing it into a very competitive and focused masters swim team,” said Valenti, who recently competed in an Ironman triathlon in Hawaii.

Cheri Ellington, who was a California State University, Northridge teammate of Valenti, agreed.

“She turned the program around. She is committed to growing it into the top program in the state,” Ellington said.

The Masters Club is attracting swimmers from outside the Santa Clarita Valley.

Jon and Marcy Edge, both teachers, live in the San Fernando Valley and attend workouts and meets regularly.

“The Masters team has really got me motivated to start taking swimming seriously again. While I was swimming after college, I wasn’t competing. Being with a team has rekindled the competitive desire,” said Jon Edge. He is happy with his progress in the Masters program.

“I’ve matched all of my high school times, and I think I’ll be able to beat some of my college times at Nationals next month,” Edge said.

Competition and swim meets are available, but not required, and all participants must be 18 years of age or older. Practices are 90 minutes and begin with a warmup set, which include drill, kick, and scull sets. Practices rotate with a focus on distance, mid-distance, stroke, sprint and hypoxic workouts throughout the week. A monthly practice calendar is available to club members.

For information contact Laurie Bossard by email at h2ogirl1063@ca.rr.com or lbossard@santa-clarita.com, visit http://santaclaritamastersswimming.com or call the Santa Clarita Aquatic Center  at 661-250-3700.

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