POTTSTOWN >> A walk down the main corridor of The Hill School athletic center is a walk through time.
The walls are lined with countless photos of the school’s iconic teams and accolades that go back decades.
Each picture and each name on the wall serves as a constant reminder to anyone that ever has and ever will one day don the blue and white: this is your time.
Over the past three years, there has only been one name that has mattered to Alberto Mestre, and it had been that person’s times that the senior had been chasing through the early portion of his career.
Alberto Mestre, Sr.
Mestre had spent the past several seasons trying to break — then better — two of his father’s individual pool and school records that have hung in the Cunningham Pool rafters the last 30 years.
The results? Historic.
By the end of his career, he’d shattered two of them. Though the board reads the same name, there’s now a different year scratched in next to each of them.
Mestre’s lifelong motivation to surpass his father’s scholastic marks has earned him the title of The Pottstown Mercury’s 2016-2017 All-Area Boys Swimmer of the Year.
“It definitely gives me some bragging rights in the family,” said Mestre with a laugh while glancing up at the all-time leaderboard. “You always want to be better than your father. My goal has not only been to get better with time, but to eventually beat his times.”
Mestre earns the All-Area nod right on the heels of Pottsgrove graduate Kevin Basch (now at University of Delaware) and Perkiomen Valley graduate Kyle Dix (Bloomsburg University).
A two-time Olympian surely casts a pretty big shadow — just not big enough for the 6-7 Stanford University-bound Mestre.
The elder Mestre ‘82 represented his native country of Venezuela on the Olympic level twice during his swimming career. Following his time at Hill School, where he set three individual school records in the water, he went on to swim at the University of Florida. He held the Blues’ pool and school records in the 100-yard freestyle (45.96, 45.10) as well as the pool record in the 50 free with a 21.12 finish. He also held the mark in the 200 free with a finish of 1:40.0.
All along, Mestre admits, his father laid the foundation. It was up to him, though, to build on it.
“I always had his times in the back of my mind,” said Mestre. “Whether it was practice or just training, I wanted to one day see my name next to those records.”
“He was gunning for those records his entire career,” said first-year head coach Amy Agnew. “Even once he broke them, he constantly wanted to get lower and lower (in time). That was always his drive.”
Mestre arrived at The Hill for his sophomore year, shortly after his family moved from Venezuela to Puerto Rico, where he attended high school his freshman year in 2013. Mestre is a dual citizen of both countries having set national records for his age group in both Venezuela and Puerto Rico.
Following his freshman year in Puerto Rico, Mestre began to consider boarding school. After applying to several Mid-Atlantic Prep League schools, Mestre decided on The Hill, pushed by his desires to steal the torch from his father.
“This was always the destination for me,” said Mestre, whose brother, Alfonso, joined him on the team this season. “It’s been kind of a family tradition that I felt like I wanted to keep alive. Even while I was applying to other schools, I knew this (Hill School) was where I would end up.”
Mestre’s debut season at The Hill proved plenty historic for the Blues.
The team put an end to its 32-year Eastern Prep Championship gold medal draught with three first-place finishes. One of those victories came in the Blues’ record-setting 200 free relay, in which Mestre swam a leg. His father was on hand to present the relay team, and his son, their gold medals.
That proved to be just the start of something special.
Mestre kicked off the opening meet of his junior season in unforgettable fashion. In front of a capacity crowd, he posted a 20.97 in the 50 free — nearly .15 ahead of his father’s career-best time — for his own personal spot on the all-time leaderboard.
“That was my best memory,” recalled Mestre. “That was the first individual record I had ever broken. The crowd was here, the atmosphere was amazing. It was by far the most emotional race I’ve ever won.”
From there, things kept rolling.
Over the course of the next couple of seasons, Mestre continued to better that time as well as his record-setting time in the 50 free. He ended his career in both memorable and historic fashion.
Mestre became the program’s first swimmer to claim dual gold-medals at the Eastern Interscholastic Championships last February. He finished with career bests in the 100 free (44.57) to go along with an impressive 20.00 in the 50 free.
“I wanted to badly to go under 20 (seconds),” recalled Mestre, “but I was still happy to have won it.”
Now as he walks down the halls of The Hill School, Mestre can be filled with a sense of pride, a sense of satisfaction after accomplishing what he had come to Pottstown to achieve all along.
“No, I’m never satisfied,” he said. “I’ll always want to do better than what I’ve done before.”
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