Last season, the boys’ swim team had a record number of new, young swimmers, many of whom were drawn to the program because of the completion of the state-of-the-art natatorium that finally brought the nomadic team home after many long months.
Those newcomers gained much experience last year when the team produced its best record in many years. They were 9-2 overall and 5-2 in section competition and have improved enough to become the foundation for the program’s future, thanks, in part, to abundant support from a group of tight-knit teammates.
“I think having a young team has added a lot of energy and excitement and fosters a great sense of community,” says senior four-year swimmer and captain Brandon Brewster, who qualified for WPIALs last year as a member of the 400-freestyle relay. “This year we set a goal to be as good or better than we were last season when the boys’ team had their best record in something like 28 years. I just know it had been a very long time and we’re motivated to do that again.”
“The turnaround in our program from two years ago is amazing, and our hope is that it will carry over and produce good quality teams for the next few years,” says head coach Dan Taylor.
According to Coach Taylor, it’s not only the influx of new swimmers and the added depth that has made a difference. He says, “I think the biggest difference this year is that the boys are really enthusiastic and worked hard to come into the season in good shape.”
That commitment to excellence has paid off at the midway point in the regular season. Through mid-January, the team remains undefeated and all three boys’ relay teams already qualified for the WPIAL championship. Members of 200-medley relay are senior Liam Botos, juniors Nathaniel Roe and Tristan McClelland, and sophomore Will Wang. Swimming the 200- and 400-freestyle relays are Nathaniel, Tristan, Brandon, and junior Colin Hackwelder.
“Our growth, depth, and experience from last year to this year are our greatest strengths,” comments Coach Taylor.
Nathaniel, also a 2017 WPIAL qualifier in two events, is one of the team’s anchors and top point-earners in the 100-freestyle, which he considers his best and fastest event; the 100-backstroke; 50-freestyle; and 200-IM. He doesn’t view himself as a designated leader, per se, but does try to help out the younger members of the team.
“I try to help them, not by necessarily telling them what to do because I don’t want to come across that way, but more by lifting them up and encouraging them,” Nathaniel says of how he perceives his role on the team. “We lost some of our best swimmers to graduation last year, but the freshmen and sophomores are really stepping up and trying to do their best. If they do happen to ask my advice, I just tell them that I’ve been practicing over the past years – a lot. Swimming is a year-round thing for me.”
In fact, it is that dedication to practice that has Nathaniel an eyelash away from achieving his personal goal of breaking 50 seconds in the 100-free and 56 seconds in the 100 backstroke and qualifying once more for WPIALs.
There’s still a number of weeks left for Nathaniel and his teammates to make the WPIAL qualifying times in more events. And, with the team’s demonstrated commitment to hard work, it’s a good possibility that Fox Chapel Area will have even more representation when it comes time for the championships in late February.