Sand, surf, sun and 10 to 13 miles a day of swimming. Sounds fun right?
Well, that's just what the West Virginia University swim team is in for in December. The squad will take a training trip to the Laguna Mar Resort on Margaurita Island, off the coast of Venezuela, and they will take a couple of lucky persons with them.
Because of the huge cost of the trip, which is not all being paid for out of the athletic department budget, the team is holding a raffle, and for $50, anyone can have a chance to win a trip to the all-inclusive resort.
"They don't have to do the training they just get to come along and get all the benefits," coach Eric Mcllquham said.
The idea came about to help defray the out-of-pocket cost for each team member which is close to $1,000. Each member is attempting to sell 20 tickets and the remaining tickets are being sold through alumni and the WVU swimming office. Mcllquham said there were only 800 tickets printed so the odds are pretty good.
Why is a trip like this so important for the team?
The biggest reason is the 10-lane, 50-meter pool complex that the team will use. At WVU, the pool is only 25 yards in length.
"When you are swimming 50 meters compared to 25 yards at a clip, it really helps with your aerobic endurance because you aren't getting that pause at the wall so often," Mcllquham said. "And it really helps our stroke technique and development because you have to maintain it for such a longer period of time without getting a break."
While at Luguna, the team will get up at 7 a.m. and go through 45 minutes of what Mcllquham called "dry-land stuff." Sit-ups, push-ups and stretching exercises will be followed by 7,000 to 10,000 meters of swimming until 10:30 a.m. Swimmers will then have a break for lunch followed by leisure time to take advantage of the exotic location.
At 3 p.m. it's back in the water for another 7,000 to 10,000 meters, and depending on the day, it's weightlifting which they will do three times a week.
"We always go during winter break to get some long course work in an Olympic size pool," Mcllquham said. "We prefer to do it in a warmer climate to give the kids a little change in latitude and change in attitude. Usually the consensus is 'I don't care what you do to me as long as I get a tan.'"
The coach added that the winter trips are good for recruiting as well. NCAA regulation prevent a team from traveling out of the country more than once every four years, but that means he can guarantee a recruit that during their time at WVU they will take such a trip. Next year the team will travel to Arizona or Florida.
In the past WVU teams have gone to Puerto Rico, but Mcllquham knew how nice a place Luaguana Resort was and the fact that it is not in what he called a hotbed for tropical storms during that time of year really contributed to his decision.
He thinks the trip will be very positive heading into the season.
"They'll have a little bit of time to relax," Mcllquham said. "They will definitely get some tans and shed that Morgantown winter look, but it will be a good trip and they are going to be tired. I have been there twice before with different universities, and it's just been a good positive experience for our athletes as far as getting in some good quality work, but doing it at a place where they can be relaxed and not have to worry about school at the moment."
Anyone interested in tickets for the raffle can contact the WVU swimming department at 293-2289.
Sports writer Shawn Yonker can be reached at 626-1444.