One thing current senior Anthony Ascolani has not had very often during his time as a student-athlete at Morris Community High School is a long break.
Right now, not only is Ascolani getting a reprieve from classes and homework at MCHS, but he is also getting a breather from the swimming and diving season. The Morris co-op team, for which Ascolani swims the 100-meter butterly and a number of other events, had five meets in a 10-day span to open its season but has none scheduled from Dec. 13 until Jan. 8.
Ascolani, who was also a mainstay on the Redskins' cross-country team over the past few years, spent some of his time off answering questions from the Morris Daily Herald.
Q. How has the swimming season to date gone for you personally?
A. It has gone very well. Better, in fact, then I could have ever imagined. I never would have thought that I would make it to the level that I am at now. Freshman year was scary because I didn't know what was going on, but thanks to my teammates, family, and coaches, I was able to learn the strokes during the swim camp. Without their help, I would not be at the level I am at today.
Q. What did the team learn about itself in the first five meets?
A. We learned as a team that we are good, but there is always room for improvement. This year, everyone knew how to swim so all we had to do was help them enhance their stroke. Also, we have come very close as a team this year, closer than I have ever seen in the past four years.
Q. Is it difficult having such a large break between meets?
A. It is very difficult because all you want to do is sleep in and eat. However, you just have to remember that your competitors are not taking breaks; they are working harder than ever. Mr. (Andrew) Porth has always said, 'Every practice, every set, it all matters.' These words help me to stay focused between my breaks.
Q. How, if at all, are things different with coach Porth taking over as head coach?
A. Things are very much the same ever since Mr. Porth has become the head coach. All they (Porth and former head coach Joanne Engle) did was switch positions, so there was no real change.
Q. What are you most looking forward to in the second half of the season?
A. In the second half of the season I hope to see us place at conference, and possibly win the Ottawa Pentathlon that we have coming up soon in January.
Q. You also ran cross country at Morris. What are your thoughts on how the 2012 season went?
A. The cross country season went very well besides the fact that Jacob Watland, myself and some other runners got injured. The team will generally progress each year due to Mr. (Joe) Blumberg’s amazing coaching. He has made the cross country program more fun than I could have ever imagined. Also, we won the Warrior Classic this year. The team received a giant wooden Indian. I will miss the team greatly.
Q. In what ways have expectations changed for the cross-country team compared to what they were when you joined the program?
A. Each year the expectations are raised, but the runners will exceed them. Also, we work on our core more, and we have Myrtl routine every other day. The mileage has also increased tremendously. I never thought I could run as far as I have. The cross country team is more than a team, it’s a family. This makes the intense workout and mileage fun, exciting and definitely worth it.
Q. Which is more draining — a swim meet, or a cross-country race?
A. I would have to say they are about even because in swimming you have to sprint as fast as you can while holding your breath, which doesn't make things easy. There is also more than one event to swim. However, in cross country, you have to give it everything you have and run as fast as you can for three miles without a break. Overall they both are hard and draining.
Q. Does anything stand out as a personal highlight for you in sports so far?
A. I have become closer with the team, which I know will make it very difficult when it comes time for me to graduate. I have worked very hard and have put a lot of time into all of the sports that I participate in. Besides getting hurt in cross country, and almost not being able to finish the season, my senior year was very emotional because I was determined to run sectionals for the first time. Also in swimming, I never thought that I would be swimming fly as fast as I am now, and I'm still dropping time.
Q. Beyond this year, do you plan to swim and run regularly, even if not in a competitive setting?
A. Yes I do, if everything goes as planned I might be running cross country for Iowa Wesleyan College next year. I will always be running and swimming no matter what. It will be different not swimming and running for the coaches at MCHS, but it’s always good to try new things.