Commitment has put Bickel among state’s elite swimmers

Energy, effort and endurance make Jenna Bickel a formidable triple threat in any pool. The junior on

Energy, effort and endurance make Jenna Bickel a formidable triple threat in any pool.

The junior on the Guilderland/Voorheesville girls’ swim team is not only the best backstroke swimmer in Section II, but also one of the strongest competitors in her specialty in the state.

She will have an opportunity to measure herself against the state’s elite once again when she competes in the New York State Swimming and Diving Championships Friday and Saturday at Erie County Community College.

Bickel has already put together another sensational scholastic season, capped by her victory in the 100 backstroke in a Section II-record time of 56.24 at the Section II Swimming and Diving Champ­ionships on Nov. 6 at Shenendehowa. She also won the 50 free in 24:28.

Bickel, the Most Valuable Swimmer at the 2009 Section II Championships, also qualified for the Adirondack Swimming Olympic Trials.

The Jenna Bickel file

SCHOOL: Guilderland

GRADE: Junior.

AGE: 16

PARENTS: John and Jamie.

SIBLINGS: Ava (6).

ACTIVITIES/HONORS: School choir. 2009 All-American in backstroke. Academic All-Amer­ican. Qualified Adirondack Olympic Trials.

FAVORITE COURSES: English and U.S. History.


FAVORITE FOOD: Macaroni and cheese.

ON MY iPOD: John Mayer; all types of music.

“I was trying to peak for the state meet, so I’m extremely happy that I set a section record in the 100 back,” said Bickel. “I’m training very hard so I can have a top performance at states.”

Although Brenna Autrey is her coach during the varsity season at Guilderland/Voorheesville, Bickel’s year-round mentor is Doug Gross of the Delmar Dolphins club team. During the scholastic season, Bickel not only goes to every practice for Guilderland/Voorheesville, but she also practices with the Dolphins, even if she has already worked out with her varsity team that same day.

“It makes for a long day sometimes, but I really love swimming,” said Bickel. “During varsity season, I always go to varsity practice first, and then to the Dolphins practice. It can be a little tiring, but I love it.”

Bickel began swimming when she was 10 years old, but became really serious about the sport after finishing eighth grade.

“I used to play CYO basketball, but I joined the Dolphins when I began ninth grade, and I stopped playing basketball. I just loved swimming too much, and there wasn’t much time for much else,” she said.

According to Gross, Bickel’s commitment to her sport puts her in an elite class.

“Her commitment and dedic­ation are really the key. There are a lot of talented athletes in our area, but she makes the commitment,” said Gross. “She comes to practice and gets the workouts that she needs.”


The 5-foot-9 Bickel believes she excels at the backstroke because of her long arms, but Gross says it’s because of her smooth stroke.

“A lot of times, a swimmer will have one stroke that is better than another for some unknown reason,” Gross said. “Jenna just has a very natural backstroke. I haven’t really had to play around with it too much. We just work more on her starts and turns and her conditioning. She’s a very natural athlete.”

Gross was asked if Bickel will get burned out training year-round.

“If elite athletes are successful with what they are doing, they don’t get burned out. If they are committed, in general, they rarely get burned out,” said Gross. “Some swimmers get injured, or they are out of the water for a while and fall behind. Then they get discouraged. It can carry over. But if they keep swimming and are healthy, and they remain committed, they won’t get burned out.”

Gross said two special trips energized Bickel even more than usual.

“We took Jenna to a big meet in Buffalo, and she really got turned on by the competition. Then, we got invited to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. The best 30 women and the best 30 men swimmers 16 years old and under were invited, and she really got pumped. She was able to train with those girls. It just motivated her beyond belief. She was pretty psyched anyway, as evidenced by the fact that she never misses practice and works hard all the time, but that trip just moved her to another level.”


Gross said he and Bickel keep setting higher goals that she can achieve.

“Our goal this season was for her to break the section record, which she did. Now, she is training for states. We’re hoping that she does even better there,” he said.

Bickel doesn’t know exactly what her future holds in the sport, but she plans on swimming at the next level.

“I don’t know about the Olympics or anything like that, but I want to swim at a Division I college,” she said. “I would love to continue swimming at that level.”

Categories: High School Sports, Sports

Leave a Reply