Captains Corner: Girls Swimming- Ellie Zolotarev

Jake Eisenberg , Sports Editor

Jake Eisenberg: I’m here with Ellie, one of the captains of the swim team.  Thanks for stopping by – how are you?

Ellie Zolotarez: Oh, of course, no problem.  I’m excited to be here.

JE: Let’s get started.  What’s a typical day of practice like? I heard the team wakes up super early.

EZ: On those morning practices, we all meet at the school around 5:15 a.m.  and then the bus takes us to Great Neck North.  It’s usually before the sun even rises, so we try to stay pretty quiet.  I sleep most of the way.  Once we get there we take off our pajamas, put on our caps and suits, and get in the water.  We swim for around an hour or hour and a half, and then get back to the school.

JE: So, you need to wake up around 4:30? That’s normally when I get to sleep!

EZ: Yeah, sometimes I don’t even go to sleep.  I’ve pulled all-nighters.

JE: How do the races work? Which events do you compete in?

EZ: There are relays and individual events.  Relays are four girls, usually two laps each of the different strokes.  Some relays are a medley, which is a combination of different strokes.  There’s an individual for each stroke, and one medley.

JE: And there are also diving events?

EZ: Diving usually competes in the middle of the meet.  We have two divers, Juliette Meyer and Catherine Tasnady, and they both perform 5 or 6 dives per meet.

JE: Is there a cannonball event? Could I compete?

EZ: Um, not yet, but I hear it’s in the works.  You’d probably get zero points, even if it was perfect, and you would have splashed everybody.

JE: That’s alright, I’ll keep practicing.  I’m aware that there are some members on the team who are not yet high schoolers, namely Annabelle Corcoran.  As a captain, how have you helped them assimilate with the older competitors and become better swimmers?

EZ: It’s tough, but I know where they are coming from.  I started on the swim team in 7th grade, too, and you feel a little intimidated.  All of these girls are very good, so I’m not sure how much that applies to them, it was more getting them to be more friendly with us.  We had a pasta party in the beginning of the season and that helped bring all of us together.

JE: Aside from the pasta parties, do you all participate in other team building exercises, like early-morning water aerobics or Marco Polo?

EZ: We all play “all fishes under” which is basically “sharks and minnows” with a different name, but nobody joins me for Marco Polo, and it becomes embarrassing, as you can imagine.  As far as water aerobics, I’ll leave that to Coach [Joe] Lennon.

JE: You said you started in 7th grade as well.  How have you grown over the years, and what are some of the accomplishments that you are particularly proud of?

EZ: I’m more proud of how the team has grown than my personal accomplishments.  When I started, there weren’t very many girls participating, and it didn’t seem like the sport was taken seriously.  Now, it’s a complete, competitive team feel.  Everyone wants to win just as much as the next girl.  And the back-to-back conference championships don’t hurt either.

JE: I’m sure you watched the Olympics over the summer, especially swimming.  Did you learn anything from watching Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte compete?

EZ: Well, for one thing, I learned that Ryan pees in the pool – it’s true.  And it doesn’t turn blue, like it does in kiddy pools.  But in all seriousness, Coach Lennon does mention professional swimmers when we are getting ready for meets, and talks about how they prepare, mentally and physically.

JE: Would you rather go on a date with Phelps or Lochte?

EZ: Well, Michael and I have had a deep, romantic relationship for approximately ten years – Phelps that is.  Ryan’s made advances on me, but I continue to turn him down.  My girl crush is Amanda Beard.

JE: Good to know.  Now, for these swim meets, you are required to wear team caps, and I can’t help but notice your large, curly hair.  How does it fit?

EZ: It’s a process, and it’s one that I can’t do myself.  I need to soak my hair in the water and let it deflate.  Then it goes in to a specifically placed bun on my head, and one of my teammates helps me stretch the cap over.  My hair is so big that I need help with it.  And my caps are bigger – there are special caps for special people.

JE: I also hear that you collect caps?

EZ: I have one from just about every school, and I have fun with it too.  A few weeks ago, we had a meet against Oceanside, and, while we were warming up, I put on my Oceanside cap and swam around.  They were all pretty confused, and it was really funny.

JE: For most of the season, it seems like there is a 50/50 split between your time in water, and your time walking on land.  Which do you prefer?

EZ: The water, no doubt.  I’m so clumsy on land; in fact, the swim team has the most concussions of any sport, and we don’t have contact!

JE: What is the legacy you wish to leave?

EZ: I hope that I’m remembered for being a good captain and teammate.  I may not be the best swimmer on the team; I’m not the fastest person in the pool, but I care about this team more than anything.  I talk about swimming, I think about swimming, and I’m trying to learn how to breathe underwater, so I can live swimming.

JE: Thanks Ellie! Good luck at your meet later.

EZ: My pleasure, it was a lot of fun, and thanks!