Third-year swimmer Yuka Suzuka was chosen by the State University of New York Athletic Conference as Women’s Swimmer of the Week on Tuesday, Jan. 10.
Suzuka was honored following the 2012 SUNYAC Swimming & Diving Championships. For Suzuka, gathering individual accolades is a new experience for her.
“It was not something I was expecting,” Suzuka said. “And it’s the first acknowledgment I’ve gotten in my whole swimming history, so I’m excited.”
Swimming since she was only five years old, Suzuka was encouraged by her mother, who was also a swimmer, to participate in the activity as a competitive sport rather than for recreational purposes.
Suzuka said as she continued to swim and practice her skills, she began to participate in more advanced swim teams/clubs offered by her local YMCA. Starting her freshman year at Yorktown High School, Suzuka swam for her high school team.
“High school swim was mostly for enjoyment,” Suzuka said. “New Paltz is different because it is very organized and while it is important to have fun, it’s more about working hard.”
During her freshman year at SUNY New Paltz, Suzuka said she started to take the sport more seriously and her mindset went from “I’m having fun” to “I should really try this seriously.”
The summer after her freshman year, Suzuka said she focused on working out every day to gain muscle for the approaching swim season.
“[Yuka] was mainly a backstroker out of high school,” Swim Team Head Coach Scott Whitbeck said. “Her lifetime best of 58 seconds in the 100 back dropped this year to 55.53 seconds. She has dropped a significant amount of time and improved in almost all aspects of her swimming.”
Suzuka said much of her dedication comes from the encouragement she continuously receives from Whitbeck.
“Coach always encourages us,” Suzuka said. “He’s not like high school coaches. If something is wrong, he fixes it.”
Whitbeck, however, is not the only element to Suzuka’s success. The team, she said, is a tight-knit group, supporting one another to triumph.
“We take care of each other,” Suzuka said. “Emotionally, at least. We like to always be together, and hanging out outside of swim. No matter whose accomplishment it is, it pumps up the team when one swimmer does well.”
“When a high-profile swimmer like Yuka is swimming fast, I think it helps everyone,” Whitbeck said. “It brings a lot of confidence to the team to see your best swimmers getting even better.”
Suzuka made a big contribution to the team’s fourth-place finish out of nine teams at the 2012 SUNYAC Championships. She was named Most Outstanding Female Swimmer at the tournament, the third person in SUNY New Paltz history to do so.
Whitbeck said he expects an excellent season from Suzuka after seeing her swimming these last couple of weeks.
With her senior year quickly approaching, Suzuka said she intends to take her swimming to the next level.
“It just comes down to swimming fast,” Suzuka said. “Faster, more serious and Nationals. Those are my goals.”