It wasn’t exactly a winter break.

Between semesters, the men’s swimming team traveled to the La Loma Altitude Training Center in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. In the sunny, 70-degree weather, the Wolverines participated in a rigorous altitude camp to prepare for the new year.

“We haven’t really seen much of the town,” co-captain Alex Vanderkaay said. “We’ve just been swimming and sleeping.”

The La Loma Center is 6,200 feet above sea level. At higher altitudes, red blood cells are stimulated and more oxygen can travel to the athletes’ muscles, helping to increase endurance and speed.

“It’s very hard to adapt to altitude training,” Vanderkaay said. “We jumped right into the training and we were pretty beat up during the first week, but we’re starting to swim a little faster.”

The Michigan team swam right through the holidays, including a scheduled midnight practice on New Year’s Eve.

With multiple practices every day, the favorable environment of San Luis Potosi enhanced the intense level of workouts.

“It’s very warm and they were able to get out in the sun, which is something we don’t get to do in Michigan very often,” coach Bob Bowman said. “Swimming outdoors and being out in the open air is always great.”

The Wolverines take a yearly training trip over the holidays and travel out of the country every four years. The team used the time to improve without distractions.

“Christmas break is a good time for us to get away from Ann Arbor and school, everything that we normally have,” co-captain Grant Burtch said. “We just focus on getting better as a team.”

Michigan defeated the Mexican national team yesterday and concluded its international training. Official scores and times were not available before press time.

The meet, originally scheduled for Jan. 2 but postponed due to travel issues, provided a solid foundation for this weekend’s competition. The Wolverines will be challenged by perennial NCAA contenders No. 3 California, No. 5 Arizona and No. 21 Arizona State on Friday and Saturday.

“I think we didn’t swim any spectacular times, but getting up and racing today really prepares us for our meets in Arizona,” Bowman said. “We’re looking forward to swimming this weekend, and I think we’re moving in the right direction.”

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