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Heidi And Seek

Feb. 13, 2012

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

The news became official Monday, and it was grand when Heidi Hatteberg — swimmer and aerospace engineering student deluxe — won big.

She is one of three Georgia Tech student-athletes to earn the Weaver-James-Corrigan Award and the accompanying $5,000 award toward post-graduate studies. Just 36 student-athletes in all the ACC were similarly tapped upon there shoulders, so that’s large.

Plus, the senior from Louisville, Ky. who holds three Tech records, is also just one of three ACC student-athletes to receive the Thacker Award bestowed upon those who demonstrate excellence in competition and in the classroom with the goal of seeking postgraduate studies at an ACC institution.

Try fitting all that on one plaque.

Guess what she’s most looking forward to most?

A good full-body shave.

Seriously, Hatteberg and her teammates on the Tech women’s swimming team are just hours away from one of the most interesting sports phenomena of which you may be unaware.

Most of them pick one or two meets per year — not small ones, obviously — to shave everything other than their heads and what which hides under a swimming suit.

Since the ACC Championships begin Wednesday at Virginia Tech, it’s a good time for razor makers. If you happen to be a hotel maid in Blacksburg, Va., sorry. There are going to be messes, and the Yellow Jackets won’t be the only ones making them.

“I like to wait until the very last moment, an hour or two before I go to the meet,” she said. “I like the shock, the different feeling in the water. Some do it the night before. I first shaved when I was 12 years old to make zone team for my state.

“It feels like you’re gliding through the water; the water just rolls right off. We don’t know if it really works [to help swim faster].”

Even if the benefit is all between the ears, a perceived benefit can so often in life prompt a greater result.

There is the obvious downside. As Hatteberg said, “It is rather disgusting although it’s not like we all jump in a bathtub. Usually it’s just you and your roommate.”

Although the ACCs (the men will compete next week) are not the finish line of the season for those swimmers who advance to the NCAAs next month, it represents the end of the line in another way.

Swimmers, like track athletes and those in some other sports, taper their training in advance of the mega meets. Simply put, they train less as the meet draws closer so that their bodies get stronger.

Hatteberg is a backstroke specialist, and she competes in some freestyle events as well.

“All year long we break our bodies down, and at this time we let them rest and re-build. Usually at peak of taper, your body is at its finest position,” she said. “Your muscles are all defined and re-covered. We’ve been coming down in [training] yardage and intensity, letting our bodies get more rest.

“We back off on morning [workouts] to let the body get more sleep, and you start getting mentally prepared. I usually start about 10 days out with the distance guys because I have a smaller body and less muscle mass. The tapering process is different for everybody. We all start at different times.”

The tapering timeline is not all that differs from one swimmer to the next. Some athletes alter their diets during this period, not that their diets tend to be what you might consider bad to begin with.

Hatteberg said she surrendered sugar beginning Jan. 10, for example, but she pointed out that some swimmers are of the opinion that any substantial change to diet will shock or affect the body in a negative way.

Tech will also see some change in Virginia Tech’s pool. Lest you think that all pools are the same, think again.

“There’s a huge difference. There are different kinds of water; you have salt, bromine — which we use [at Tech] — and some use chlorine,” Hatteberg said.

“Virginia Tech designed their pool to be FINA-regulated so they have to kind of make some changes with locations of the black line on the bottom [of the pool] because NCAA regulations are different.

“They have to put sheets down on the bottom with new ‘T’s’ because if you use the T’s they have, you’ll flip early and miss the wall.”

The Jackets recently competed in Virginia Tech’s pool, which is new, so they have an idea what to expect.

The shave might seem to you like a predictably similar experience from one to the next, but not to Hatteberg and her ‘mates. There’s only one way to replicate the buzz that comes from zipping through the water with the feeling that there is an electrical current in it.

“When you wait six or seven months to shave it feels amazing,” Hatteberg said. “It’s really special. “One of my roommates is counting down the days until she can wear shorts again [in public, post-shave].”

So, had you any idea? I learned of this many years ago when the very first sport I covered in college was swimming & diving. The aftermath looked like a fraternity party had broken out in the hotel the night before Bowling Green competed in the Mid American Conference championships.

As an unrelated aside, I forgot to mention in yesterday’s story that former Tech basketball star Chris Bosh, who played well in the Heat’s win over the Hawks Sunday in Philips Arena, said his family had, The Bodyguard, on VHS and watched Whitney Houston in it, “about 100 times.” How about that?

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