Adams High School's Adele Zyniewicz is living up to expectations with Eagles swim team
SOUTH BEND — When Josh Skube's daughter, Addison Skube, was 10 years old, he enrolled her in a summer swim league at Swanson Highland Pool in South Bend. The program was more of a start-up activity for beginner swimmers. Practicing strokes, competing in some races and sparking interest in the sport for the next generation of swimmers.
But a couple times a week a nine-year-old girl would join in on practices or swim meets and blow away the competition.
"I would be lining up for my event and she would be in the water absolutely dominating," Addison Skube said. ".....I just remember being in awe at how could somebody be this good when they are nine years old."
That girl that was causing jaws to drop because she was beating her competitors by more than half of the pool length was young Adele Zyniewicz.
Back then, Zyniewicz didn't have the body or technique of a normal swimmer her age. She was physically gifted which kept her strong in the water.
"Technique was good," said Josh Skube, who is the swimming coach at South Bend Adams. "She payed attention to details and that has definitely carried through to today."
The South Bend swimming community is a tight-knit group. Word about Zyniewicz's talent quickly spread like a wildfire. And rightfully so.
Zyniewicz, who grew up in the South Bend-area, began swimming when she was four. At eight years old she joined the Michiana Stingrays through the South Bend YMCA. At 10 she went to Speedo Nationals and won her first national record in the 50-meter freestyle long course event.
It was only a matter of time before she got to high school at South Bend Adams, and so would her success in the pool.
"I was like we (South Bend Adams) are going to dominate the city," Addison Skube said of Zyniewcz arrival. "I was super excited because we were going to be something again."
Zyniewicz is now a sophomore swimmer at Adams. And all these years later, nothing has changed from those early swimming days.
Her times in the water still cause eyes to widen and jaws to drop. And those expectations from her days at Swanson still follow her around.
"I like to go fast," Zyniewicz said. "I like how it feels. I like to win. I'm not a sore loser, but it is just a good feeling when I win."
The freshman phenom
Zyniewicz's first ever practice with Adams was as nervous as she had ever been in her swimming career. For the couple of months prior, she had been away from the pool.
The YMCA closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and she had nowhere to swim. She was also dealing with two knee injuries with patellofemoral pain syndrome, which causes damaged cartilage under the kneecaps.
“I didn’t think I would be as fast as I was a few months before and people would start to lower their expectations of me," she said. "It is fine, but to me that is also lowering my expectations."
It didn't seem to matter when it came time for her first high school meet against Elkhart Zyniewicz, a freshman, broke three school records in the 50-meter freestyle, 100-meter freestyle and 50-meter butterfly races.
“I was like overwhelmed that it was a possibility, especially in my first meet," Zyniewicz said. "I thought maybe towards senior year I could do something special like that. But three in one meet in my freshman year was really nice."
Later in the season she broke the school record in the 200-meter freestyle at New Prairie despite hating the event. She went as hard as she could to just get it over with.
Then, she broke the school record in the 200-meter individual medley at South Bend Riley, even though she doesn't normally compete in breaststroke races, but she knew she could beat the previous time if she put effort into the rest of the strokes and really focused on the breaststroke leg.
"When I look up there and see my name I think it is just really repetitive and 2021 is really nice," Zyniewicz said looking up at the school record board inside of the Adams swimming center. "When I know other people look up there they know it was only last year."
It took a college work ethic from a high school freshman to have success like this right away.
Josh Skube noticed from the beginning of her time at Adams how much Zyniewicz pushed herself both in dry land and water work. Sometimes before morning practices Zyniewicz would get up around 4 a.m. to get in a weight-lifting or dryland training session on her own, prior to coming to swim practice.
"What she has that I haven’t really seen a lot of in high school swimming is, and a couple of the other girls on the team do this as well, what we call doing things in the dark," Josh Skube said. "What are we doing when nobody is looking? What are we doing to recover? What are we doing to eat right? To sleep well?"
It's not always followed to a T. After every practice Zyniewicz goes home and eats taquitos, one of her favorite foods. It never seemed to affect her in the water growing up.
At 12 years old she became the youngest girl ever to make the nationals cut in the 200-meter freestyle event. A couple of months later, she qualified for nationals in the 50-meter freestyle long course event at YMCA Nationals.
And there are still records to shatter.
Heading into her sophomore year, there is one more school record Zyniewicz is trying to chase: the 100-meter backstroke. In Adams' most-recent meet against South Bend Saint Joseph, she swam right on the cusp of the record, missing it by 1.4 seconds.
But Zyniewicz is confident that record will come down eventually.
“I know there is a girl coming here that is a backstroker who probably will break that record if I don’t," she said. "I am hoping to get my name up there for backstroke at least once."
Swimming with expectations
Despite Zyniewicz's early success at Adams, Josh Skube changed his coaching approach with her to take less pressure off of her shoulders Originally, Skube put Zyniewicz in events in school meets with goals of breaking a record.
He realized those expectations led to more stress.
"You don’t want to put a ceiling on things," he said. "I think that adds pressure that is unnecessary. Our approach is to just show up the next day and get better, and each day you keep chopping this wood, you are going to get faster and things are gonna come. That is when the surprises happen."
In her first season with the Eagles, Zyniewicz, as the only individual swimmer to qualify for the state meet, led Adams to its highest points finish in state meet history.
"She definitely raises the intensity level within practice because she is one of our fastest swimmers," Skube said. "She raises the level of competition that we have. She takes our performance in a dual-meet setting, or a championship setting to another level."
This season, Adams is off to another hot start with a 5-0 record and winning meets against Elkhart, Culver Academies, South Bend Washington, Bremen and Saint Joseph. And the approach when it comes to Zyniewicz is also a little different.
A lot of times this year, Skube has been putting his star swimmer in relays, rather than individual races, which lets her not only get her feet back wet again (after taking fall season off from the pool) but to also elevate the rest of the team's performance.
And whether Zyniewicz knows it or not, her success pushes her teammates, too.
"We all strive to be better," Addison Skube said. "We all want to be just as good as her and want to back her up as a team."
A "love-hate" relationship.
Swimming is the sport that Zyniewicz has been most successful at her entire life. But she doesn't limit herself in the athletics realm. During the fall Zyniewicz plays in the Adams volleyball program. Last spring, she was part of the Eagles' track & field team that competed in the state meet.
"Swimming is so fun and I love it," she said. "It is a very love-hate relationship, which you will hear from all swimmers."
More than any other sport she plays, swimming gets Zyniewicz the most anxious. Maybe her past success leads to that. So could the want to be more successful in the future. Swimming past high school is not out of the question.
Swimming can also be a lonely sport. You swim alone in lanes. When you are in the water, you can't talk to anyone because your head is submerged. That is that "hate" aspect of the sport.
It's why former Olympian Missy Franklin, who advocates for mental health, has been a big role model for Zyniewicz's career.
But there is so much Zyniewicz loves about swimming that has pushed her over the years.
In some of the races during her short high school career, Zyniewicz can sometimes feel the physical toll the strokes take on her body. But it is her teammates standing on the edge of the pool, cheering her on, that can keep pushing her.
The awards have been great. So have the races won, and seeing her name plastered all over the school's record board. But ultimately, its being part of the Adams team that makes swimming so gratifying.
"Once you touch that wall and others touch the wall and you start conversing with them, it makes everything so much lighter on your shoulders," she said.
"Then you start having fun."