In the swim

Twin brothers, Henry, left, and John Copses practice swimming laps during the Vail Hurricanes swim club practice in Avon. The Vail Hurricanes are part of the Vail Swim School. The brothers are headed to Emory University in Atlanta on swimming scholarships.
Justin McCarty | |

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To learn more about the Vail Swim School, go to, or call 970-390-3068.

AVON — You can get there from here, even if you have to swim.

Swimming twins John and Henry Copses, 17 years old, are at the top of their game. Some of the time they live in Los Angeles and attend Harvard-Westlake school. The rest of the time they live here and train with the Vail Swim School in the Avon Recreation Center.

And they train all of the time. Twice a day, 6 a.m. and 4 p.m., two and a half hours each session, about 7,000 yards every day because they love it.

In between they do all the stuff teenagers are supposed to do, like skiing and snowboarding, and they do it at astonishing rates of speed.

They’re seniors, and this fall they’ll head to Emory University in Atlanta on swimming scholarships. They wanted a strong swimming program in a big city, and that’s what they found.

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John and Henry would have liked to take a couple of weeks off during Christmas, but their competition wasn’t.

Swimmers roll through the Vail Swim School while they’re here on vacation, some from places like New York and Florida. They’d love to take a few days off, but they can’t, so they don’t.

“If you take two weeks off, it takes a month to get it back,” Henry said.

So they train, and train and train …

Years ago, when they were their young brother Adam’s age (he’s 12 and watches his older brothers with a healthy mix of respect and bemusement), they looked for pools and programs in the area and found the Vail Swim School. They liked it, so they stayed.

Theresa Scala started Vail Swim School 10 years ago. She grew up in Tucson, Ariz., and hit the pool early in life. Her parents ran private swim schools, and she was in the water almost from the time she could walk.

She moved to the mountains and worked as a ski instructor in the winter, but she missed the water. So Scala returned to her roots and launched the Vail Swim School.

“It’s been many fun years, and hopefully there will be many more,” Scala said.

The Vail Swim School returned to action after Christmas break Tuesday in the Avon Rec Center pool.

Kids start by learning to swim. They move to a swim team preparation program, then to a rec team that competes with similar teams around the valley.

For the more serious minded there’s a United States Swimming Association team that trains year-round. A high school club team launches this spring, for swimmers 14 years old through high school.

Jenny LaFuria has been with Vail Swim School four years and its head coach for two. The woman discusses swimming with missionary zeal.

“We make sure it’s something the kids want to do, that swimming is a passion,” she said.

“We live in an endurance community — triathletes, Nordic skiing — and swimming fits so well with that,” LaFuria said. “It’s a lifetime sport. You can swim forever.”

John swims breaststroke and butterfly. Henry swims distance, 500 yards and further. In high school meets, 500 yards is the furthest distance. When he swims in club meets, he gets to swim as far as a mile. Henry smiles widely when he says this.

“If you take a day off swimming, it’s like a week off from anything else,” John said. “I gotta admit, I do get winded when we come up here to train.”

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and

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