Falling in Love With Swimming Through CP Bluefish, PHS Star Kratzer Excels at PASDA Championships
A summer recreational league is designed to keep athletes in shape while adding to their skill base, but for Stephen Kratzer, a rising senior at Princeton High, his involvement with the Community Park Bluefish swim team helped him fall in love with the sport.
The Most Valuable Swimmer for the PHS boys’ squad last winter, and a member of the the 2014 state Public B runner-up team, Kratzer has made a name for himself with the Little Tigers. While Kratzer spends all of the winter training with PHS, he returns every summer to the Bluefish swim team, where he started competing in the sport in 2006 at age eight, joining the team after hearing about it when he first arrived in Princeton.
The Bluefish program allowed him to not only to become a better competitive swimmer, but become closer to his fellow athletes, many of whom have become PHS teammates.
“It helped me expand my friend groups and made me more comfortable with meeting new people because we had a common interest or a common subject to talk about,” said Kratzer.
Kratzer, a natural team player, enjoys swimming in relay events which include the 200-meter freestyle relay, the 400 free relay, and the 200-medley relay. He helped the Bluefish 10-and-under medley relay team set a club record in 2009, and the 17-and-under medley relay team follow suit in 2014.
“I feel like I thrive in an environment where other people count on me to do well …. [I like events where] everyone has such an important role in order to win,” said Kratzer.
Individually, Kratzer focuses on the 200 free, an event he swims for PHS. Kratzer and the Little Tigers got knocked in the quarterfinals of the NJSIAA North 2, Public B sectional last winter and while it seemed like an early exit to some, Kratzer saw positives.
“I think the season went really well, in terms of training we did a lot of stuff that helped me get better at the 200 meter freestyle, that allowed me to drop a lot of time which I was really happy about,” Kratzer said.
Kratzer has the benefit of having both summer and winter training to keep him in shape, with the Bluefish swim team practicing Monday through Friday mornings, starting at 8 a.m. The intensity of Bluefish practices acts as a pre-season for him, allowing him to keep fit in preparation for the winter swim season.
“The Bluefish definitely helps me stay in shape throughout the summer … and helps me stay as fit as I can in preparation for the high school season,” Kratzer said.
The summer season consists of five dual meets in the Princeton Area Swimming and Diving Association (PASDA), culminating in a two-day championship meet where swimmers compete in their age groups. At the 2015 PASDA championships last week, Kratzer placed third in the boys’ 18-and-under 100-meter individual medley and sixth in both the 50 free and 50 butterfly.
“[At the meets] everyone is trying and everyone is doing their best to try to win their events,” said Kratzer. “I’ve been swimming similar times to the ones I had [at PHS] which means I’m not dropping any time but I’m not gaining any time which is good.”
His CP teammates span a wide range of skill levels, with some swimmers focusing on the pool only in the summer after playing other sports during the school year.
“Some people only swim during summer so that’s eight months of not being in a pool, so for some its not that big of a transition [into the summer season] but for others they have to put more time into practice,” added Kratzer.
While the Bluefish emphasize hard work in order to succeed in the meets, team chemistry plays an important role.
“In meets, I try to lead by example,” noted Kratzer. “I just go as fast as I can and try to win as many events as I can and show the little kids that [they] can do it.”
Even when he is not swimming, Kratzer can be found at Community Park pool, working as a lifeguard. Now in his 10th summer with the program, Kratzer has clearly developed a strong bond with the pool, the team, and the community.
“Community Park helped me fall in love with the sport of swimming and definitely without it I wouldn’t be swimming today or I wouldn’t be nearly as good,” said Kratzer. “Its helped create more bonds between [me] and the [other] high schoolers and the community.”