Through the holidays, Columbus North’s swimmers will start getting serious, ramping up their training in preparation for the big postseason competitions ahead.

At the Columbus North Relays on Saturday, it was all about having a good time.

The format was far, far different than at a normal dual meet. Not only were there breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly relays, but there was a race featuring coaches and parents, a race in which the swimmers wear flippers — and one in which the swimmers wear jeans.

“I liked seeing the coach- parent relay,” North’s Pavithra Venkataraman said, “because Leah Retrum, she swam here when she was little, and now she’s one of the coaches, so it was really funny to see her put that suit on — and she did really well.”

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While many of the races offered entertainment value, the jeans relay is generally the overwhelming favorite — at least for the spectators.

For the competitors, it also can be quite challenging, especially if they get caught with their pants down.

“My jeans, when we got to the wall, they didn’t really get to go on that well,” freshman Jared Carroll said, “so as soon as I dove in, they fell off, and I had to hang on by my feet. So it was really tough.”

Though the races against Bloomington North, Center Grove and Floyd Central were really about having fun, there was still a bit of competitive spirit here and there.

North coach Bridger Bell, for instance, said he was pleased that his Bull Frogs were able to win the final two events — the flippers relay and the final relay featuring the whole team. The North boys ended the day as the top scoring team, edging Bloomington North 388-364. The girls finished third.

Now, however, the mood gets a bit more serious. With no official competitions on the schedule until Bloomington North returns to town on Jan. 7, the focus turns to training during the holiday season.

“Over Christmas break, we extend the pool to meters, and we do a lot more conditioning,” explained Jackson Nagel, a former wrestler who joined the swim team this year.

“We’ve really trained the walls, the starts, the underwaters,” Bell noted, “and now we’ve got to really hit the middle of the length really hard, the swimming portion.”

Though it’s easy for athletes to lose motivation sometimes when there isn’t an opponent to compete against, Bell hopes to guard against that by mixing up the routine a bit from day to day.

“We do test sets where they’re focused on their performance,” he said, “and hopefully every practice, there’s something new. They get fired up about Christmas training because we just put more hours in than at any other time in the season, and this team, we’re fortunate that they love to train.”

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Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at roleary@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.