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Piranhas in the News

Stroudsburg native made big splash at La Salle

College Corner

For the Pocono Record
March 21, 2007

Sean Connors-McBride picks up his 7th career A-10 Performer of the Week award
Sean Connors-McBride won 14 Atlantic-10 Conference swimming medals, five of which were gold, at La Salle University. He capped off his senior season less than a month ago with his third consecutive A-10 title in the 200 butterfly.

Now, with graduation in his sights and medical school on the horizon, the Stroudsburg native isn't pining for old glory.

McBride simply misses practice.

Yes, the 5 a.m. variety. It's the kind of practices that the mere thought of make many groan, but made Connors-McBride one of the Explorers' most decorated swimmers.

"I really enjoy racing the clock in practices," Connors-McBride said.

Connors-McBride never had an unexcused absence from practice in his La Salle career. He estimates he may have missed one as a freshman, but his coach, Matt Nunnally, can't recall. Connors-McBride even attended one or both of the voluntary workouts Nunnally scheduled every week during the offseason.

"He was real committed," said Nunnally, in his eighth year at La Salle. "He was willing to make sacrifices a lot of our athletes aren't willing to make."

Connors-McBride's willingness was born long before he earned three straight team MVP awards at La Salle and was named captain as a senior.

Connors-McBride moved to the Poconos at age 10 and swam at the Pocono Family YMCA. He attended Pius X as a freshman and sophomore and won a District 11 title in the 100 butterfly.

When Connors-McBride transferred to Germantown Academy in Fort Washington outside of Philadelphia to swim for legendary coach Dick Shoulberg, a work ethic was hatched.

GA boasts no less than four Olympic swimmers among its alumni, and Shoulberg, who turned the program into a national power shortly after his arrival in 1969, is regarded as one of the country's most important swim coaches.

Shoulberg was also the most important influence on Connors-McBride's swimming career. Connors-McBride practiced up to 32 hours per week at GA and was a team captain as senior. He recalls Shoulberg telling a swimmer who missed practice, "You were sick? Cancer is sick."

"Even up until I was 15, I was good but wasn't great," said Connors-McBride, the son of Frank Zini and Patricia Connors-Zini of Stroudsburg. "At GA, swimming came first. I went to all the practices no matter what. That's when I started to get a lot better."

"Better" meant six All-America honors and a full scholarship to La Salle.

"I don't see myself as being the most talented swimmer in the pool in any meet, but probably one of the hardest workers," he said.

Connors-McBride served notice almost immediately that he was going to be special at the next level. He won the always grueling 500 freestyle at A-10s as a freshman. The feat was even more impressive considering he never swam the event in high school.

"There was never a situation where he was overwhelmed by things we were asking him to do," Nunnally said. "His training at Germantown allowed him to handle it. He was very successful in dual meets right from the start."

Connors-McBride capped his sophomore year with the first of his three 200 fly titles, notching what is still a career-best time of 1:49.19. During that season, Connors-McBride switched majors from communications to biology with a minor in chemistry. For the first time, he was working as hard in the classroom as he was in the pool.

As a junior, Connors-McBride anchored La Salle's 800 free relay team that placed first and won his second 200 fly title. Nunnally increasingly used him in key situations during dual meets and Connors-McBride became someone his team could lean on.

Connors-McBride would have liked his winning time to have been lower in last month's 200 fly final at A-10s. His winning mark of 1:50.67 was more than a 1.5 seconds slower than the time with which he won as a rookie, but another number — his 3.18 grade-point average — earned him A-10 Academic All-Conference honors on Tuesday.

Connors-McBride is also in line to notch his fourth team MVP award, which is based on total team points accumulated throughout the season.

Connors-McBride plans on taking his Medical College Admission Test, working for a pharmaceutical company and then attending medical school next year. His interest in orthopedics came from a shoulder injury torn labrum he suffered during high school.

But at least for now, there will be little practice for Connors-McBride. He may even enjoy a well-deserved break.

"I've just been catching up on sleep," he said. "I'll swim for recreation purposes."



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