Highlands coach Brancato competing at national level again

Highlands High School varsity swim coach Beth Brancato pauses for a portrait during practice on Wednesday, January 9, 2013.
Highlands High School varsity swim coach Beth Brancato pauses for a portrait during practice on Wednesday, January 9, 2013.
Photo by Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatc
| Sunday, May 12, 2013, 12:31 a.m.

Highlands swimming coach Beth Brancato isn't ready to give up competing.

She's been like a fish out of water for years.

“Every time I step on deck, I just wanted to be in the water,” Brancato said. “WPIALs was the worst. I used to live for the big meet.”

Brancato, 35, a former standout at Highlands and Nebraska, did get back in the pool March 23 at the Swim Against Huntington's Disease Master Meet, at Ohio State's McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion.

She posted top times in the Masters Level, as well as overall.

Her times rank among some of the country's best this year, helping her earn a spot in the US Spring Nationals, going on Friday in Indianapolis.

“I was out of the water for 12 years. I got back in with one of my best friends,” Brancato said. “She swam with me in Nebraska.”

Brancato also has reconnected with a former college teammate, Helene Rovnan, who also continues to compete.

The pair decided to return to the pool together.

Both have been training to get back into form. Rovnan is from South Africa.

“It came back pretty quickly. Training at that level is different when you're 35, than when you're 18,” Brancato said. “You could go five workouts until you need a recovery workout. Now I go about three workouts.”

That wasn't enough to stop Brancato from posting low times.

She finished first in all three of her events: the 50-yard freestyle, with a time of 24.24, the 50-yard butterfly, at 26.56 and the 100-yard individual medley with a 1:03.99.

Her time in the 50 free is the top time in the nation, this season, in her division.

She has the No. 4 time in the 50 fly and the 19th-best time in the 100 IM.

The hardest part for Brancato is not the training and competing, it's balancing that with every day life.

“I have a job and a family, with kids. They have their own activities,” Brancato said.

“I then started coaching at Highlands. We went to that first meet, and I told my husband I have to get back into the water.”

It was also the first time her husband and kids saw her compete.

Helping her do so, is not just her husband, but also her parents. In order for Brancato to train, she has to rely on their help coordinating care for her kids, after school.

That help may have to go on a little longer.

“Nationals is definitely not the end of it,” Brancato said. “The world championships are next year in Montreal. I'm definitely going to keep competing.”

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