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Gertenbach tearing up the collegiate pools

May 19, 2002|By ERIC GALVAN, Sports Writer

It took one year for El Centro native Randy Gertenbach to get adjusted to life on the East Coast, but as soon as he did, he made a tremendous impact on the University of Pittsburgh swim team.

After an average freshman season, the 19-year-old worked harder than he ever had, intent on making a difference in his sophomore season.

The time and effort paid off as Gertenbach earned NCAA Division I All-America honorable mention honors with his performance at the NCAA swimming and diving finals in Athens, Ga., on March 21.

As a member of the 400-yard medley relay team, Gertenbach helped the team to 15th place in 3 minutes, 18.52 seconds in the event.

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As if that wasn't enough, the former Central Union High swimming standout led the team to a top 25 finish in the NCAA polls. Pitt took 24th in the nation, the highest ever in the team's history.

Individually, Gertenbach finished 33rd in the 200 breaststroke in 2:02.91.

"This year went very smoothly. The training was pretty difficult at first, but as the year went on, it just got smoother and smoother," said Gertenbach, who participated in the U.S. Olympic swimming trials prior to the 2000 games. "Last year, it was just a tense situation. Going from California to the East Coast, I really didn't know what to expect. I was pretty much just learning the ropes last year."

After being heralded as the best swimmer ever to come out of the Imperial Valley, Gertenbach went into a situation at Pitt where every swimmer was deemed the best from their home town.

But Gertenbach didn't yield under the pressure. He began to work harder than ever.

A day's workout for Gertenbach included weightlifting and anywhere between 6,000 and 10,000 yards of swimming.

Before the Christmas break, Gertenbach said he and his teammates were putting in upward of 16,000 yards a day.

"Training for college is just so intense. Compared to, say year-round swimming when you're in high school, it's a lot more intense with all the yards you put in," said Gertenbach. "And half of the workout when you're swimming is hard race-pace stuff. You're going just as hard as you would during a race."

Initially the workouts were affecting Gertenbach as the wear and tear of practices were seemingly too much.

"At first I couldn't get adjusted to it. I'd be sore and tired from practices and when I'd go into a meet, I didn't think I'd be able to do as well as I wanted to," said Gertenbach. "But it wasn't until the Big East (Conference) meet that I think it all came together."

At the Big East meet, Gertenbach broke 2 minutes in the breaststroke.

"At Big East that was my goal: I just wanted to break 2 minutes. I kind of knew it was going to happen, so I just let it happen," he said. "Then my coach (Chuck Knoles) came up to me and congratulated me. Then he said, ‘You're not done yet.'"

From then it was on to the NCAA meet, where things worked out fairly well for Gertenbach. While he did have a good outing at NCAAs, he said he was still disappointed with his performance in the breaststroke.

With that out of the way, Gertenbach now can focus on next year and quite possibly the 2004 Olympics.

"I'm going to keep working out during the summer and I'd say within the next six months I'll start looking at the Olympic trials," he said. "The Olympics is something I've always kind of strived for, I'm sure everyone's dreamt of going to the Olympics and becoming a star. But I just have to work hard for it.

"Coming from the Valley, I think I've proved that if a person goes after something they strive for and as long as you put in the effort, it all can work out."

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