Athlete of the Month: Junior Cooper McKenna

Athlete of the Month: Junior Cooper McKenna

Angela Wong, News Editor

The Oracle: How long have you been playing for Gunn’s swim team? 

Cooper McKenna: I have been on Gunn’s swimming team, as well as water polo, since freshman year.

TO: What inspired you to begin your water-dominated athletic career?

CM: When I was nine or so, it was sort of the stage where everyone was playing sports. I didn’t really enjoy the other sports I’d tried, including swimming, though I liked the water. I think the tipping point was not liking soccer though because all of my friends and my sister loved soccer. My mom played water polo at [Palo Alto High School] Paly, actually, and then at UC Davis, so she then suggested I try it out.

TO: What is the greatest challenge you’ve faced while on the swimming team, and how did you overcome it?

CM: One of the biggest challenges I had with swimming was sort of accepting it on its own. I initially swam freshman year pretty much only because of water polo, and to be completely honest, I was not looking forward to it. By the end of the season, though, I had such a great time and was happy to have improved so much and meet so many new people. Everyone was and still is so supportive, and especially at the league championship meet, the energy and cheering is insane. I also learned that there are so many levels to swimming and so many details to think about, so I started to think of it as separate from just training for water polo.

TO: When and how did you learn to swim?

CM: I honestly have no memory of really learning how to swim. I know my parents were taking me “swimming” as soon as they were allowed to (at maybe four weeks), but I think pretty much any swim instruction I got was from them until I did high school swimming freshman year.

TO: What does your weekly swim practice schedule look like?

CM: In a typical week during this season, we have practice every afternoon, except for Tuesdays, when we have practice 6:30 to 8 a.m. before school instead, and Fridays, when we have meets. We also have weights from 6:30 to 8 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings.

TO: What makes a great player in the water?

CM: This probably goes for most sports, but being smart goes a long way. Water polo can be especially tiring, since you can literally never stop moving without sinking, so you have to be smart with what you’re doing. For example, even if you’re not the strongest, you can usually compensate by maintaining good body position in the water and having awareness.