SHERIDAN — The Sheridan High School girls 1,600-meter relay team has a knack for besting its own school record. On more than one occasion this season, Piper Carrol, Kelly Moodry, Riley Rafferty and Pippin Robison put an authoritative exclamation point on a meet with a record-breaking performance.
All four have proven themselves on the track, and three of them have also made names for themselves in the pool. Carrol, Moodry and Robison all competed on the Lady Broncs’ swim team this past season that came up just shy of the school’s first state title in over three decades.
And it’s no coincidence that these tracksters or swimmers — however they identify — have found a high level of success in both arenas. Very similar to peanut butter and jelly, but with perhaps not as much notoriety, swimming and track go together near seamlessly.
“There are so many crossovers between track and swimming,” Sheridan head swim coach Brent Moore said. “There are just so many similarities, talking about aerobic training and an individual sport that competes as a team. Both are really grueling.”
According to Swimmingworldmagazine.com, swimming freestyle for 30 minutes will burn about the same number of calories as a 30-minute run at 6.5 mph. Results vary based on the person’s weight, skill level and overall health.
The muscle groups used in each exercise overlap some, but swimming uses many more than running. A typical running motion works five muscle groups, four of which reside from the waist down. The glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves along with one’s core undergo stress in a common running motion.
Swimming, on the other hand, is a full-body exercise. Freestyle will train 24 different muscles from the sternocleidomastoid in the neck to the flexor digitorum brevis in the foot.
“Running just targets your legs and your lungs, but swimming, it’s like everything,” Carroll said with a laugh.
Carroll, a junior, has made the transition from swimming to running at the high school level the last three years. Moodry, a senior, has also tackled the transition three times in high school as she didn’t swim during her sophomore year.
In that one year away from the pool, Moodry — who’s a better runner than swimmer and admitted she enjoys when swimming season is finally over — didn’t see time drops on the track. Upon retuning to the pool as a junior, Moodry experienced improvement on the track.
“I went back to swimming junior year and I got [personal bests] in all my events,” Moodry said. “So I’d definitely say that swimming builds up your strength and endurance for running.”
Robison, a senior, competed in both sports all four years of high school. She has even combined the two, along with bicycling, and participated in various triathlons. Robison is still flirting with the idea of competing collegiately in triathlons at the Naval Academy next fall. She loves swimming and track and has gotten asked which sport she prefers on more than one occasion.
“I can’t pick because there are certain aspects about running that I love, and certain aspects of swimming that I love,” Robison said. “They’re so separate, but they have the common aspect that you have to work hard and get through the tough workouts. I really like multiple things about swimming and running.”
It’s no accident that Robison has carved her name into multiple record books. She not only lays claim to the 1,600-meter relay record but also claims a spot on the swimming record board in both the 200-yard medley relay and 400-yard freestyle relay.
Robison’s body is quite used to transitioning from the pool to the track, but the switch can prove difficult to many. Swimming is a non-weight bearing sport that applies less pressure on the joints than running.
Having swimmers hop right out of the pool and into an intensive running workout can have negative effects. While the athletes lungs and aerobic capacity remain in top shape from pool workouts, the stress on the lower body from running can lead to injuries.
Sheridan track and field head coach Taylor Kelting has heard of some small early-season injuries from his swimmer-runners but nothing serious. And while Kelting doesn’t know if those little ailments are swimming related, he does know that he wouldn’t trade the positive effects swimming in the fall has on his runners in the winter and spring.
“It’s interesting because that water you don’t have the pressure on your legs and then you step on that track, and while their lungs are so great, it takes a couple weeks for them to get their land legs,” Kelting said. “Once they have their land legs, they’re just awesome for us.”
The transition from the track to the pool can also prove difficult. Again, the athletes boast good aerobic shape from running; however, working 19 more muscles comes with challenges.
Swimmers that also run battle shoulder soreness early on, and Moore understands this and gives those athletes an acclamation period.
“We just give them time and say, ‘Hey, if you’re feeling like your arms aren’t carrying you, sit one out,’” Moore said. “It’s a little bit frustrating for them. They think they should be able to do this because they’re not out of shape.
While both sports come with their fair share of challenges when transitioning, they blend and benefit one another quite a bit.
But which sport is more difficult?
Kelting — who ran collegiately at the University of Wyoming — has heard both sides of the debate, and while his answer isn’t definitive, it provides some clarity.
“People always say running is the hardest conditioning sport, but I don’t know,” Kelting said. “If you throw people in the pool, that might be more difficult.”
Moodry — who will run collegiately at Boise State University in the fall — wholeheartedly views swimming as more difficult, while Carroll and Robison remain firmly on the fence.
It’s a hard question to quantify and it may never have a clear-cut answer. But no matter which is more difficult, there’s no denying the benefits they have on each other.