Coach Mac Kennedy sat on the steel bleachers to the side of the pool bearing his name.
Kennedy then stood and approached the water, where about two dozen Swim Florida swimmers waited for him to bark his next set of instructions.
“I want 12 three hundreds,” Kennedy said.
Off they went, kicking and churning water, as Kennedy returned to his seat.
“We swim about 8,000 yards a practice in the afternoon,” Kennedy said. “We swim about 4,000 yards in the morning. That’s approximate. It varies.”
What varies little is the success shown by Kennedy’s high school swimmers, especially in the 500 freestyle. With no significant competitions in the near future, right now marks peak training time for next fall’s potential state champions.
This past high school swim season, Santi Corredor, a sophomore at Bishop Verot High School, became the 10th Kennedy-coached swimmer to win a state championship in the 500 freestyle since Kate Volz of Cypress Lake won one in 1994.
Kennedy, 63, has been training swimmers in Fort Myers since 1974, after he finished swimming at the University of Kentucky.
This fall, Corredor will be looking to join 2014 Fort Myers High graduate Logan Samuelson and 2010 Bishop Verot graduate Stephanie Peacock as repeat 500 freestyle champions who have trained under Kennedy.
Kendall Brent, who will be a Fort Myers High senior in the fall, placed second in the 500 freestyle in the state meet last season and will look to finish first in 2015.
“It gets you confident for the race,” Corredor said of swimming such long distances in practice. “He always pushes us hard in practice. He works us on endurance. You use the things he gives you.
“You still feel like it’s a long race. I view it like four minutes and 29 seconds of pain.”
The teenagers, upon hearing Kennedy’s command, began swimming 3,600 yards, with 15 or so seconds of rest in between 300-yard distances. They traveled the length of 36 football fields, or a little bit more than two miles, over the course of about 40 minutes.
“Mac breeds distance specialists by his coaching techniques,” said Logan Samuelson. The Auburn University swimmer won 500 freestyle state championships in 2012 and 2013 while at Fort Myers.
“I remember Mac would always love to give us a large amount of 200s on a real tight interval,” Samuelson said. “Sometimes, the goal of the set would be just to hold a real fast pace, but depending how fast the interval was, it’d sometimes just be to make it.
“He definitely taught us how to swim fast when we’re tired and not be afraid to race anyone.”
Kennedy said trial and error over the years has dictated how hard he could push his swimmers.
“I might come up with something over their heads and see how they respond,” Kennedy said. “You try to mix it up.”
Brian Shue became the second of three family members to win a 500 freestyle state title at Fort Myers High and under Kennedy’s guidance in 2001, following brother Mike Shue in 1998 and preceding sister Lauren Lurie in 2003. Now a New York City construction attorney living in Chatham, N.J., Brian Shue said training under Kennedy helped prepare him for life after his participation in the sport.
“It’s a testament to Mac’s success as a coach that he continues to produce state champion 500 freestylers,” said Brian Shue, who swam at Princeton University. “You need the right combination of speed and endurance to succeed in that event. His practices do not cut corners.
“You have to work hard under Coach Mac and endure a lot of yardage. His practices were often as grueling as any of the practices I faced in college, so it’s easy to understand why his swimmers continue to have success in the longest and most grueling high school event.”
Lauren Lurie, married and the mother of two in Scottsdale, Ariz., said she still puts her former coach’s training methods to use.
“I run 25-plus miles a week, and many of those miles are pushing my two daughters in a running stroller,” Lurie said. “I feel like my endurance and mental strength are still a part of me so many years later.”
Samuelson, so far the fastest of any of Kennedy’s distance specialists, said he hoped Corredor would surpass him and become the first Kennedy-coached swimmer to break the four minute, 20-second time barrier in the event.
“I’ve benefitted from Mac’s training the most now that I’m in college from the swimming-tired aspect,” Samuelson said. “Mac would have us beat down so bad, then he’d just keep hitting us with more hard practices, one after the other.
“He taught us how to keep going when we didn’t think we could.”
Connect with this reporter: David Dorsey (Facebook), @DavidADorsey (Twitter).
Since 1994, ten swimmers coached by Swim Florida’s Mac Kennedy have combined to win 12 state championships in the 500 freestyle. Here’s a look at the swimmers, their high schools and their times:
1994: Kate Volz, Cypress Lake, 4:59.68
1997: Kevin Volz, Cypress Lake, 4:31.73
1998: Mike Shue, Fort Myers, 4:33.70
1999: Andrea VanDerPlaats, North Fort Myers, 4:59.07
2001: Brian Shue, Fort Myers, 4:30.47
2003: Lauren Shue, Fort Myers, 4:56.73
2007: Stephanie Peacock, Bishop Verot, 4:48.51
2009: Stephanie Peacock, Bishop Verot, 4:41.63
2011: Michael Messuri, Fort Myers, 4:29.79
2012: Logan Samuelson, Fort Myers, 4:25.33
2013: Logan Samuelson, Fort Myers, 4:22.13
2014: Santi Corredor, Bishop Verot, 4:29.03