Sitting before me are two friends: Michael Patton and Matthew Knox. They are both sophomores at Springfield High School. They both have long limbs, tussled swim hair and honest smiles, and like many of our swimmers, they both have a history of swim lessons with the YMCA and a bright swimming future ahead of them.
Michael first started swimming at the YMCA when he was two years old at the “Gym & Swim” toddler class. Matthew started taking swim lessons at the Y when he was only three years old.
Today, they are both teammates on the Springfield YMCA Typhoons Swim Team. They have been on the team together for ten years and live only three houses away from one another.
From August to May they regularly endure two-hour nightly practices and early Saturday morning practices in the Kerasotes Marantz-Londrigan competition pool, in addition to the many long weekends away at meets. They take a hiatus from the YMCA to swim for Springfield High School from Thanksgiving to the end of February. In the summer months, they have morning practices at Veterans Memorial 50-meter pool while evening practices continue at the YMCA. In addition to speed, endurance and technical work, they lift weights, do circuit training and work on core strength with their coaches.
They both aspire to collegiate swimming.
I asked what motivated them. Matthew explained, “I went to YMCA State competition in 7th grade and noticed I was winning a lot of races. That was my last summer of baseball.”
Michael admitted, “Matthew motivates me. He beat me at everything at state! He is my biggest rival!”
“I wasn’t good at swimming when I was younger,” explained Matthew. “But I told myself, ‘There is always someone to catch. There is always room for improvement.’” They both nod. They both know winning means work.
Michael continued, “I also loved to watch Ryan Held do so well. It made me want more. I was 8 years old the first time I won an event at state. I liked it.”
“But the pace? The long hours? The dedication?” I inquired. “Honestly, it’s become routine. It’s just our way of life,” Matthew explained. Michael jokes, “During practice it sucks, but you feel great afterwards. And if you don’t show up, Coach Rob will get on your case!”
Their dedication and willingness to be coached has paid off. At state, Michael won the 200 backstroke, and Matthew won the 100, 200 and 500 freestyle events. Together, with Gage Hamill and Jude Kneller, they won the 200 free relay, breaking the Y state record for that event!
When recounting the moments after, they couldn’t help but break into laughter. “We went to high-five and missed!”
They both believe the YMCA has been instrumental to their success and their continued participation in the sport of swimming. “When they built the competition pool at Kerasotes – that was huge. It brought in more kids and made our team better.” The Marantz-Londrigan competition pool is a state of the art, 8-lane, 25-yard short course pool kept at cooler temperatures for the sport. It boasts starting blocks, retractable bleacher seating, a coaching deck and other amenities built specifically for the team. Along with the new facility came a new coach. “I remember the first time I saw Coach Rob. He was a really young guy. I didn’t know what to think. It ended up turning out pretty well!”
The team now heads to YMCA Nationals every year in North Carolina. This year the team ranked at their highest finish yet: 12th place out of almost 250 teams! Michael and Matthew had the pleasure of enjoying two 4th place wins, one in the 800 free relay (with Spencer Hohm and Gage Hamill) and the other in the 400 free relay (with Gage Hamill and Jude Kneller).
Despite success, their demeanors remain humble and relaxed. Throughout the interview, they are constantly reminding me, and themselves, that they can work for more. In addition to their involvement on the swim team, Michael has been a lifeguard, and Matthew teaches swim lessons over the summer. They aren’t just young athletes, but citizens in training.
At the YMCA, these two young men have been given the foundation for a sport that has given them the skills to give back to their community, strengthened their character and inspired them to reach for more. They have been given the facilities, skills and support that have not just made them faster, but that will take them further. After speaking with them, I am confident their swimming careers have only just begun. After all, college is only two short years away.
Michael and Matthew’s friendship and perspectives refreshed my spirit at the end of a long work day, but I looked up at the clock and knew I had to dismiss them from the interview. It was almost time for practice, and they can’t be late.
Interested in starting your child on a path to competitive swimming? Sign up for lessons today.