Olympic High School's Wojtech faces tough swimming choice

Olympic High School senior swimmer John Wojtech swims the butterfly during a practice Monday. He will compete at state next month. - Wesley Remmer/staff photo
Olympic High School senior swimmer John Wojtech swims the butterfly during a practice Monday. He will compete at state next month.
— image credit: Wesley Remmer/staff photo

Olympic High School’s John Wojtech has accomplished more this season than most swimmers do over entire careers, but now he has to decide his next accomplishment.

Five school records. Eight state-qualifying times. ‘Ironman’ status.

“As far as the most well-rounded swimmer, he’s the best I’ve ever seen,” Olympic boys swim coach Paul Henderson said.

But the senior has at least one more item to check off his list: He wants to medal, or at least place in the top five, at the 2010 Class 3A state boys swim and dive championships next month.

By rule, however, swimmers are limited to racing only two individual events in addition to unlimited relays. That puts Wojtech in the difficult position of selecting his best two races, or at least the two that will give him the best chance at medaling.

He knows “for sure” he will swim the 100 breaststroke because that’s the race on which he chose to focus after quitting track and cross country.

“But other than that, it’s sort of iffy,” he said.

While that second state event has yet to be determined, Wojtech is leaning toward either the 200 IM or the 100 fly, although he’s also been tempted to race the 50 free.

Henderson said Wojtech swimming the 100 breast at state would give him his “his best shot” at making the podium, citing Wojtech’s school-best time, currently on par with the state’s best.

Regardless of what he swims, Henderson said, Wojtech needs to continue to do what he’s done all season: Work hard and focus on getting better.

“He’s got pretty laser-like focus. He’s ready to swim big in the big meets. He’s ready to swim and he’s ready to do what it takes to get there,” Henderson said. “He doesn’t slack off. He does it.”

Earning a medal at state would provide the ultimate satisfaction for Wojtech, who last year gave up cross country and track after reaching the state championships in both to focus on swimming.

Wojtech remembers “peaking” in the pool at the end of 2009 and wanting to build on the progress he’d made over the course of that season.

So he hung up his sneakers and replaced them with a pair goggles.

“I didn’t want to lose my momentum,” Wojtech said of his progress in the pool. “Doing three sports, I was always trying to catch up with everybody.”

The three-sport athlete posted school-record times in the 100-yard breaststroke and the 100 butterfly with times of 1 minute, 1.95 seconds and 54:05 in the Trojans 100-65 victory at home over Bremerton Jan. 22.

That gave him five school records — he also holds top times in the 50, 100 and 500 freestyle races — out of eight possible events. The only races in which Wojtech does not hold school records are the 200 individual medley, 100 backstroke and 200 back, but he has advanced to state in all three.

By qualifying for state in all eight individual races, Wojtech became Olympic’s first “Ironman,” a title given to swimmers who post state-qualifying times in every individual race.

“It’s fun to sit back and watch those things happen,” Henderson said. “I’m never surprised that he surprises me. He always pulls something out that I just wasn’t expecting.”

Wojtech’s accomplishments are particularly impressive given his physical stature. He’s not long and wiry, like many of the sport’s fastest swimmers, yet he covers more ground in less time than most.

At 5 feet, 7 inches and about 140 pounds, Wojtech relies on quick turns and fast strokes.

“He’s just a mighty mite. He’s just the energizer,” Henderson said. ”His arms go faster than anyone else, he’s efficient and he never gets tried.”

The state championships won’t be the last time Wojtech dips in a pool, either.

He plans to swim during college, having received an offer from Whitworth University in Spokane and waiting to hear from the University of Utah, where his mom was a member of the women’s team. He also is looking at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut.

Wherever the destination, Wojtech plans to follow the advice his mother.

“Growing up, she told me try my hardest and it will pay off,” he said. “I just want to do everything to my full potential.”

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