Sophomore dives into competitive MCAL pool

Tanner Jacobberger

The alarm clock reads 5:30 a.m. as sophomore Ivan Kurakin gets out of bed and prepares for his 6 a.m. weight training with North Bay Aquatics. This is just the beginning of the day for the talented swimmer with Olympic aspirations.

Kurakin swims competitively year-round and holds the Redwood school record for the 500-yard freestyle.

Kurakin’s typical day starts at 5:30 a.m. with a 6 to 7 a.m. weight training session, followed by a regular school day and ending with a two-hour swim practice from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Following in his older brother Yaroslav’s footsteps, Kurakin has wanted to be a swimmer ever since he saw his brother’s swim practices when he was five years old.

Eventually, Kurakin started swimming at age seven in Khabarovsk, Russia.

“[My brother] started swimming and then I was just watching him and I really liked it.” Kurakin said. “Once I started swimming, I would never miss a practice because all I wanted to do was beat him.”

Kurakin moved to Marin at age 12 without knowing any English.

DIVING OFF the starting block, Kurakin competes for Redwood and North Bay Aquatics. 
DIVING OFF the starting block, Kurakin competes for Redwood and North Bay Aquatics.

“The swimming was the easy part, but since I couldn’t understand the coaches, they would have to hold up their fingers and use hand motions to tell me what to do,” Kurakin said.

According to Kurakin, the transition was very difficult because America was so different in comparison to Russia. While he was struggling to learn English, he also had to go to school and take normal classes.

“I noticed a big difference in the level of competitiveness [compared to Russia]. For example, in Russia the meets would only have 200 swimmers while here [the meets] would have as many as 2000 swimmers,” Kurakin said.

Ivan is currently ranked 12th in California in his age group. He placed first in the 500-yard freestyle at last season’s MCAL meet with a time of four minutes and 45 seconds, winning first place but falling eight seconds short of the MCAL record.

Earlier in the year, Kurakin broke the Redwood school record in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of four minutes and 35 seconds, ten seconds faster than what he swam in MCALs.

His goals for this upcoming season include beating the MCAL record in the 500-yard freestyle, a time of four minutes and 37 seconds, and improving his times overall for this year’s NCS tournament.

“When I was younger my brother really motivated me, but now I have Nationals and it’s hard to qualify for things and get to the top,” Kurakin said. “That’s what now motivates me.”

Since December of 2012, Kurakin has been swimming for North Bay Aquatics, a club team nearby. Kurakin swims year-round and practices seven days a week with the team.

During the high school swim season, he goes to one Redwood practice each week, and the other six days he trains with North Bay.

Although Kurakin has many physical goals for this season, he also has other personal  goals that he has set for himself.

“One goal that I set for myself at the beginning of this season is that I’m not going to miss a single practice,”Kurakin said. “This is a big goal, because I hear about national swimmers who go their entire high school career without missing a single practice.”

Head coach Fred Ferroggiaro has known Kurakin for three years and has been his coach at Redwood for the past two seasons. Ferroggiaro has seen a great amount of improvement since Kurakin was a freshman.

“Ivan is a prodigy. He can be a fantastic swimmer among the elite,” Ferroggiaro said.

Swimming for North Bay Aquatics is a big commitment, but one that Kurakin has enjoyed the past three years.

“Club is year round, but during Christmas break is when we don’t have any swim meets and we really start to get into training,” Kurakin said.

Kurakin has enjoyed swimming ever since he started.

“I have this feeling when I jump into the water that I don’t while doing anything else,” Kurakin said. “I swim because I am competitive, it relieves my stress throughout the day, and it makes me feel good about myself because it’s something that I am good at.”

Kurakin’s next major competition is Junior Nationals in Orlando Florida, March 14-19.