Program offers intensity to skilled swimmers


PHOTO COURTESY OF JAY MULDOON Several members of the Metuchen YMCA Manta Ray Masters swim team competed in the two-mile St. Croix Coral Reef Swim in October. Pictured are Laura Rush (l-r), Jay Muldoon, coach of the team, Todd Shaper and Ann Mancuso. PHOTO COURTESY OF JAY MULDOON Several members of the Metuchen YMCA Manta Ray Masters swim team competed in the two-mile St. Croix Coral Reef Swim in October. Pictured are Laura Rush (l-r), Jay Muldoon, coach of the team, Todd Shaper and Ann Mancuso. METUCHEN — With the Metuchen Branch YMCA Manta Ray Masters swim team, it’s all about having fun while still keeping a level of intensity.

“The majority of the swimmers on the team have joined the team for fitness,” said Jay Muldoon, who has been with the Masters program for over 12 years, and five years as the coach of the team. “Ten years ago there were about five to six swimmers on the team, and since then there has been an increased enrollment of 20 swimmers.”

The team, which consists of swimmers 18 years old and over, practices three days a week from 8:15 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursdays and from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Sundays at the Metuchen YMCA.

The Master’s swim program is for all levels and abilities, but Muldoon stressed that the team is not for swim lessons.

Todd Shaper finishing the two-mile swim. Todd Shaper finishing the two-mile swim. Muldoon, who creates the workouts for the team, said that along with fitness and building endurance, some of the swimmers improve their swim techniques.

“We have quite a few triathletes on the team,” he said.

Mark Chiusano, of Metuchen, joined the team specifically to learn how to swim in September 2007.

“I was training for an Ironman, which I just did this past spring in Arizona,” he said. “I am grateful, and I owe it to all the members. If it were not for them, I would have not been able to do those 2.4 miles.”

Chiusano said he loves being on the team because of the camaraderie.

“This is such a great group of people; it’s a great environment to swim,” he said.

Maryann Fontano, of Woodbridge, said she has done 10 to 15 triathlons.

“I just enjoy swimming,” she said. “I started swimming with the Masters and I got hooked. I like the workouts, I know someone here, and it’s not solitary, it’s challenging.”

Fontano and Nancy Delaney, of Colonia, came to the Masters swim team in Metuchen from another YMCA in Rahway.

Delany said she was not fond of jogging, and when a friend suggested that she try the swim team, she did.

“I liked it,” she said.

Muldoon, 53, who said he did not swim competitively as a youth, began to swim 20 years ago.

“I was actually going through physical therapy due to a back injury … I joined the YMCA and started doing laps,” he said.

Muldoon then joined the Masters team.

“That is when I became serious about swimming,” he said.

The team competes in various one- to two-miler open water swim competitions around the tri-state area from June to the end of September. In October, some of the swimmers participated in a two-mile swim competition in St. Croix in the Virgin Islands.

“It was kind of a fluke that we went,” said Muldoon. “I just put an e-mail out, thinking no one would respond, and three people responded. We went with our spouses; it was kind of like a mini vacation. It was a touch-and-go situation, since the hurricane hit the island the day before … the waters in St. Croix were relatively calm.”

Laura Rush, of Metuchen, who has been on the Masters team for a total of 16 years, said she was nervous about the two-mile swim.

“It was a day after a category 3 hurricane … debris and sunken ships were all around the island — not where we swam, though,” she said.

Rush said she joined for the sole purpose of exercise and fitness.

“My daughter Regina was on the Metuchen Y swim team when I joined the Masters team … I like the camaraderie, it’s a lot of fun as well as great exercise to keep in shape,” she said. “We have a great coach in Jay, who helps us with our strokes. He splits us in lanes for the younger kids who are fast … every session is different, so you don’t feel you have the same workout.”

Muldoon said the most challenging swim competition he has had was this past summer’s one-mile open swim competition in Seaside.

“The current was against us; I felt like I was not even moving,” he said.

Muldoon said some of the swimmers on the team compete and others choose not to.

“The start of the competition can be unnerving,” he said. “It starts out just like a triathlon, with elbows flying and swimmers swimming over you … I tell beginners to stay to their right and wait 10 seconds. Even though the beginning can be chaotic and physical, the swimmers do stretch out and at times you won’t see anyone.”

Muldoon said he has considered holding practices in the ocean, but it’s hard to find time due to people’s schedules.

“Most of us work full time and it’s hard for us to travel to a location,” he said. “The ocean is so different from the pool … the temperature widely varies, and the jellyfish can sting … it depends if there is a concentration of them.”

Floyd Long, of Edison, has been with the team for three and a half years.

“All the swimmers encourage each other … this class pushes you on,” he said. “I used to have a lot of back pain, and now I don’t have any back problems.”

Dennis Kallish, of Edison, has been on the team for about four years.

“I used to be on a Masters swim team in Connecticut before I moved to New Jersey,” he said. “I like that there are different levels for slow and faster swimmers.”

Martha Hely-Fried, of Piscataway, is new to the team, having joined in September.

“I was looking online; I had always wanted to be on the swim team and thought it would be fun,” she said. “I have seen myself become faster and stronger, and I can make it through the workouts without dying … the first month or so was brutal … it was a steep learning curve.”

Serge Maryanchik, of Edison, has been on the team for six years.

“I came to the pool and saw the team swimming and asked the coach if I could come and be a part of it,” he said. “I swam in college … the team is excellent, because we learn something all the time.”

Muldoon said that with the team shifting toward younger members, he may consider doing more swim meets during the year as well as the open swims.

For more information call 732-548-2044.