Athlete Spotlight: Different Strokes for D’Ambrosia
December 20th, 2006
When you see her in the hallways, she may not seem any different than any other Stuyvesant student, yet senior Janie D’Ambrosia is in fact an exceptional student-athlete. She is an above-average student and without a doubt the fastest female swimmer at Stuyvesant. But what makes her truly unique is that D’Ambrosia does not swim for the Stuyvesant swim team. Instead, she swims for Asphalt Green Unified Aquatics (AGUA), an elite swim club in New York City that is among the best in the country.
“I started swimming competitively when I was eight, at Asphalt Green,” said D’Ambrosia. “The team started off really small, and I was actually one of the first young kids on the teams.” D’Ambrosia said that she participated in many sports as a child, including soccer, basketball, baseball and ski racing, but eventually decided to settle on swimming. “My coach [at Asphalt Green] said that if I wanted to get really good, I had to dedicate myself to one sport, and I decided to choose swimming.”
D’Ambrosia is nationally ranked and last year, she qualified for the 2005 Speedo Junior National Championships in the 100-meter backstroke, 200-meter backstroke, the 50-meter freestyle and 100-meter butterfly.
This level of success comes not only from talent, but also from hard work and practice. “I swim seven to eight times a week. It’s pretty intense, and there are double practices a couple of times a week,” D’Ambrosia said. “The morning practices start at 5:30 a.m. and end at around 7:30 a.m., and then I arrive at school. I go again after school, and start practice at 4:30 p.m., and end around 7:30 a.m. Then, I get home around 8:00 p.m. to 8:20 p.m.” D’Ambrosia said her coach at Asphalt Green, Brian Brown, believes in high intensity yardage, and so the team swims an average of 8,000 to 9,000 yards per practice.
Because of the intensity of her club practices, D’Ambrosia could not stay on the Stuyvesant team during her freshman year. “The reason that I don’t swim for the Stuy team is because I found that it was pretty difficult to make my club requirements—which are eight practices a week—and also make practices here,” said D’Ambrosia. “It’s not fair to be on the swim team at school and not practice with your peers.”
Despite the difficult practices and the strong commitment to swimming, D’Ambrosia maintains a high GPA. She said that it’s difficult to cope with school work, and that she works every spare second of her day to make up for time lost to the long practices. “School has always come first for me, even before swimming,” D’Ambrosia said. “No matter how much training I do, I would never let my grades slip.” Because of her dedication and focus, D’Ambrosia is a two-time member of the USA Swimming Scholastic All-American Team. The honor is awarded to high school student-athletes who have a grade point average of 3.5 or higher and have competed in one of eight national swim meets, including the 2006 Summer Speedo Championships Series, for which D’Ambrosia qualified in the 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle, 100-yard backstroke, 200-yard backstroke, 100-yard butterfly, 200-yard Individual Medley and 400-yard Individual Medley.
Although swimming is obviously her mainstay, D’Ambrosia also plays other sports both competitively and recreationally. In addition to the girls’ swim team, she was a member of the Stuyvesant girls’ outdoor track team and the girls’ soccer team during her freshman year. “I was also on the soccer team for awhile, because swimming is basically an individual sport, and I’m close with my swim team, but it’s different when you’re actually playing a sport where you get to interact with people and your success depends on them too,” D’Ambrosia said. She also enjoys snowboarding, skiing and, above all,, ultimate frisbee. “Swimming is more of an intense sport and ultimate frisbee is where I can kind of let go of the pressure of doing well.”
D’Ambrosia hopes to continue swimming in college and in the future. She has been recruited by several Ivy League schools, including Harvard University, Princeton University and Dartmouth College, and has just recently been accepted by Harvard early action.
“I want to be a professional triathlete in addition to doing other things, obviously. I’m not working hard in school so I can just be a professional athlete,” D’Ambrosia said. If she stays as dedicated and focused as she has towards both athletics and academics, there will be no telling what more she will be able to accomplish in the future.