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Swimmers start with Malibu Seawolves

Members of the Malibu Seawolves swim club practice their butterfly stroke on Wednesday, May 21, at the Malibu High School pool. Photo by Alex Vejar/22nd Century Media
Malibu Seawolves head coach Mike Alexandrov gives instructions to his swimmers during a swim club practice on Wednesday, May 21, 2014 at the Malibu High School pool in Malibu, Calif. Photo by Alex Vejar/22nd Century Media
Nicole Reynaga (left) listens to instructions from Katie Giacobbe about proper push-up technique during a Malibu Seawolves swim club practice. Photo by Alex Vejar/22nd Century Media
Alex Vejar, Staff Writer
12:35 pm PDT May 27, 2014

The Malibu Seawolves swim club could be considered the city’s secret weapon for competitive swimmers. 

Sporting multiple record-holders from Malibu High, and led by a two-time Olympian, the swim club trains children who have their sights set on improvement in the water. 

“We’ve got the resources, the coaching staff [and] experience to take the swimmers to the highest level,” said Mike Alexandrov, pack leader of the Seawolves. “That’s no doubt.”

Alexandrov, along with three other coaches, teaches children as young as 5 and helps with developing swimming techniques, body strength and conditioning. 

Katie Giacobbe, another pack leader for the Seawolves, mentors the younger cubs who are just getting their paws wet. She said she encourages her kids to work hard and learn, but to also have fun in the process. 

“I think the hard part is drawing that fine line between having fun and working, especially with the little guys,” Giacobbe said. “I want to make an environment where they work hard, get a lot done and they’re listening and doing what they’re told, but at the same time are having a good time with their friends and they’re enjoying it.”

The swim club consists of four groups: Sea Lions, Age Group Development, Age Group Competitive and Senior Development. Each group is designed to progress from the very beginning of swim training to high-level competition preparation.

Swimmers are taught everything from the basics of performing the four strokes in swimming — backstroke, butterfly, breaststroke and freestyle — to race strategy and turn execution, according to the club’s website.

Caroline Pietryzk, star swimmer and long-distance track runner for the Malibu Sharks, has been a part of the swim club since fifth grade, back when it was known as Westside Aquatics. 

Pietryzk said she likes that there are different age ranges on the club team. 

“In the club swimming, you get a very big mix of kids,” Pietrzyk said. “You get kids who are just starting to swim and they’re really excited about it. You’ve got kids that have been on the swim team as long as I have — even longer, really. It’s great to see the whole big range of swimmers and their abilities.”

With Pietrzyk’s sister Kate also on the Seawolves, Pietrzyk gets to experience a bit of sibling rivalry. 

“We have a lot of races together, we definitely challenge each other,” Pietrzyk said of what it’s like to have her sister on the team. “It’s super fun because she’s very enthusiastic and she’s always the person to yell out the sets and what time we’re supposed to be going at. It’s awesome to have a sister in the swim team with you.”

The Malibu Seawolves swim club is only in its second year as a program. After Westside Aquatics left the Malibu area, Alexandrov was brought in to resurrect the program. 

Alexandrov, a well-decorated professional swimmer who currently holds the American record for the 100-meter breaststroke, is respected by his team. Farah Stack, who recently broke a school record during the Frontier League swimming championships on May 8, feels lucky to be coached by such an accomplished swimmer. 

“I’m just really fortunate to have a swimmer like coach Mike coaching me,” Stack said. “For him to be helping me out with my strokes and telling me what to do, what to focus on, I think that’s all I can ask for.”

Stack, a freshman at Malibu High, said she wants to swim in college, and feels like her involvement in the Seawolves is going to get her there.

“I come here because of the competition racing against my fellow teammates,” Stack said. “I like training myself because I want to go further with swimming and I eventually want to swim in college. I come here just to train hard and work really hard.”

Giacobbe feels her role as a coach for the entire pack of Seawovles is get everyone involved and engaged in the sport of swimming. 

“I think my goal is just get the kids in my group to really love it and to really enjoy it so that they’ll keep swimming throughout their lives and really love the sport and really make good friends through it,” Giacobbe said. 

Alexandrov said he gets to see his kids develop into good swimmers over time, and feels proud when he sees them succeed at every level.

“It’s very exciting,” Alexandrov said. “I almost feel like a parent because I watch them, I train them and then I watch them grow up every year physically, mentally and performance-wise. You can’t put a price on that. It’s definitely very rewarding.”