After swimming over five miles a day for a week straight in preseason practice, the Mercer Island High School Boys Water Polo Team probably thought they were getting off easy Sunday morning for the annual "Lake Swim" tradition.
Thirty boys from the varsity and junior varsity squads turned out for a mile-and-a-half swim across Lake Washington — wearing little more than Speedos and water polo caps and swim goggles — then jogged back along the I-90 floating bridge in their Speedos and running shoes.
Parents and supporters formed a flotilla of kayaks, paddle boards and motorboats for safety as the team swam over 1 and 1/2 miles from the I-90 landing just south of Faben Point to Seattle in the cool 65-70 degree water.
After running about 2 miles back to Mercer Island, a contingent of Mercer Island High School cheerleaders cheered them on as they returned.
New head coach Erik Grosshan, who had been running the team through a rigorous three-a-day conditioning schedule, said the Sunday morning swim was a great tradition as he boarded a kayak with his assistant coach Sam Sussman.
"This is a 'light practice' for these guys," he said.
A local prep water polo power for over a decade with nearly a dozen state titles in a row, Mercer Island is looking to erase last year's 4-15 record with new blood and a new attitude. Grosshan hails from California and played at collegiate water polo power University of Redlands, while Sussman is an MIHS grad and had completed the Lake Swim several times in years past.
The first week of practice consists of three-a-day-workouts that begin with swimming 4500 yards in the morning session followed by an afternoon dry land session of running, sprinting and core drills. That's followed by an evening workout of 3,000 yards in the pool and 35-45 minutes of leg and conditioning drills.
Some parents stayed behind at the landing to snap photos of the team's feat, including Claudia Aron — mother of water polo player Sebastian "Sea Bass" Aron. The family had recently relocated from Orlando, FL and Aron said she was thrilled to be a part of an old tradition in a new home.
"It's nice that they can swim here (in Lake Washington) and have the experience to swim in open water," she said.
Both the Varsity and JV schedules will be announced soon.
(Ed. Note: Due to an editing error, outdated information on the team's workout agenda was included in an earlier version of this article. Mercer Island Patch regrets the error.)