Sleepiness, spunk create wacky morning scene

Olivia Corya/The Herald
Northeast Dubois seniors Tylynn Schaber, right, and Whitley Kluesner waited for girls 200 yard relay medley to begin at the Wildcat Invitational on Dec. 15. Kluesner has helped liven the mood at the Jeeps’ 6 a.m. practices this season with warm greetings and music. Local squads hope the practices before sunrise help propel them during the sectional finals at 2 p.m. Saturday at Jasper.

By JOE JASINSKI
Herald Sports Writer

Heather Deel had it down to a science. When her alarm clock howled at 5:15 a.m., she knew there was no time to waste. After rushing to grab a granola bar, she zipped off in her car, consuming the oats en route to her 5:45 a.m. practice. She arrived at the Southridge High School pool with five minutes to spare.

Deel


Despite the calculated plan, Deel is the first to admit: “I am very slow in the morning.”

From what she has observed, there are two types of swimmers at these predawn Raider workouts.

“You have the early risers, who don’t really mind it,” Deel said. “And then you have people, like myself, who just kind of want to be left alone, get the workout done, just finish so we can go to class.”

Not surprisingly, this dichotomy appears to have been the model at many wee-hour practices around Dubois County, which start as early as 5:30. With the girls sectional finals slated for 2 p.m. Saturday at the Jasper High School Natatorium, the morning rendezvous have ceased — much to the delight of most swimmers — though the memories linger on.

Rachel Welsh paints the picture of a Jasper 6 a.m. practice: a bunch of swimmers laying down on bleachers until Wildcat coach Jenae Gill mandates they begin the routine.

“We kind of move slowly to kind of waste some time, to be honest with you,” Welsh divulged.

As for waking up, it usually takes her mom coming into her room to insist that Rachel and her twin, Hannah, get up. With the clock creeping toward 5:25, she obliges and preps her standard culinary mastery: cinnamon Eggo waffles. Yet as warm and delectable as the grub is, the frigid morning pool water isn’t quite as comforting.

“Like ice water,” Welsh clarified.

From Heritage Hills swimmer Bailey Pierson’s experiences, the water temperature in Lincoln City isn’t much different: “It’s pretty cold, but it wakes you up more than what you were.”

Pierson was always one of the first to arrive at 5:30 a.m. Patriot practices. Her reasoning for the early arrival? The couch.

After swimmers change out of their pajamas, it gets competitive before practice even starts. They bang elbows for position on the couch in Patriot coach Phil Bradley’s office, relishing the sparse minutes of rest they can snatch.

Whitley Kluesner doesn’t have quite the same inclination. The Northeast Dubois sprinter took it upon herself to get the Jeeps moving and ready to go before the first daybreak dive.

“I’m kind of the one who will be like, ”˜Hey, good morning guys!’” Kluesner said.

Her first order of business is to fire up the iPod dock to get the blood flowing. The speakers blare Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop,” and the swimmers start showing signs of life. Slowly. Some 30 minutes before that point, however, and that languid energy is nowhere to be found. As alarms sound, the morning’s first thought is universal.

“Do I really have to get up?” Deel asks. “I usually stare at my phone. And I want to press snooze.”

“Can we go back to sleep?” Welsh asked as she and Hannah lay half-asleep in the dark. Once Rachel rises, she typically had to yell at her sister to do the same.

When Pierson’s alarm rang at an unfathomable 4:50 a.m., that snooze button served as her tempting best friend. And worst enemy.

While Deel remained faithful to her granola, Pierson her toast and Sunny D and Welsh her waffles, Kluesner skipped the snacking, opting instead for postpractice pig-outs. Thanks to Jeep assistant coach Tammy Schulthies, Northeast Dubois adopted the ritual of making a heartier spread — eggs, bacon, sausage and other nourishments — on a stove in the teachers’ lounge following the sun-up swims.

It’s a meal well-deserved after the condition most swimmers arrive to the pool in. At Southridge, the scene reveals teens in their most dignified grunge.

“You walk in and you see everyone’s beautiful morning faces: no makeup, messed up hair, sweatpants,” Deel described with a laugh.

The Patriots are all pretty mellow, too. Well, with the exception of the few boys running around in short shorts and button-up Hawaiian shirts who “take on everybody who is still half asleep,” Pierson explained.

“They’re hyper,” said Pierson, who assured the fashion statement never caught on. “Everybody pointed and laughed.”

In Dubois, it’s a mixed bag. There are some swimmers who look as if they’re still asleep and others who have reached the half-awake stage. Once off the bleacher beds, Welsh said the Wildcats don’t have much trouble summoning energy to chat with teammates.

Neither does Deel’s teammate Sydney Barrett.

“Sydney Barrett usually talks all the time. And sometimes I’m just like, ”˜Will you be quiet?’ And she’s just like, ”˜I can’t help it. I’m wide awake!’” Deel recalled before throwing out a disclaimer. “I can’t stand a lot of people that talk to me before 7 a.m.”

As Kluesner sees it, attitudes can change each morning. Just be wary of stirring a sleeping beast.

“There are some mornings when people are a little grouchier than others,” she said.

Considering the lost sleep, the grouchiness, the scant breakfasts, the dark, the cold, and the fact that most coaches don’t require swimmers to attend every morning practice, a common refrain rings out from all those who have never endured the experience: why go?

For Welsh, it’s about making her parents proud. Pearson’s reasoning is equally blunt and humorous: “My coach would kill me if I didn’t go.”

Fear of losing progress she’s made is reason enough for Kluesner to keep churning.

“Just knowing that every time your not in the pool, you lose all of the stuff you’ve worked for up until that point,” Kluesner said.

Deel rationalizes the occasionally agonizing a.m.’s by keeping perspective on what the opportunity provides her, not just as a swimmer, but as a senior in her final go-around.

“You get to see people more, I guess. And you realize it’s your last chance to interact with everyone at 5:45 in the morning,” Deel said. “The more I’m here, the more I get to spend time with people.”

Contact Joe Jasinski at jjasinski@dcherald.com.




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