Most years, the leaves have started to turn before blue-chip high school swimmers select college destinations.
But the class of 2018 was ahead of the curve, the majority of top-end talent nationwide pledging their collegiate futures before reporting for their senior seasons.
Alex Boratto saw the trend, and while he didn’t let it affect his decision, his decisiveness was part and parcel of his cohort.
Boratto, the two-time Daily Times Boys Swimmer of the Year from Haverford School, committed to Stanford last week. For Boratto, the marriage of athletic and academic excellence sold him on the Cardinal, particularly given his desire to major in computer science with a bent toward business.
“I just think Stanford gave me the best chance to succeed, not only in the pool but also academically for the rest of my life,” Boratto said. “… Being in Palo Alto and being right next to Silicon Valley is a great opportunity.”
Boratto committed after winning the 50-meter backstroke at the NCSA summer champs. He medaled in the 100 and 200 back in second and third, respectively. Boratto is likely a backstroke specialist at the next level, but he could also contribute freestyle relay depth, particularly the 200. He won the 100 back and 200 free at the Eastern Interscholastic Championships last spring.
Boratto finished 17th in the 200 back at the U.S. championships in Indianapolis in June, winning the C final, as well as 18th in the 50 back and 19th in the 100 back. He also swam the 100 free and 100 fly.
Stanford finished fifth at NCAAs last year. Though not enjoying quite an ascendant moment as the women’s program, the Cardinal men have won eight NCAA titles and produced dozens of Olympians.
While Boratto, a Lower Gwynedd native who swims for Upper Dublin Aquatic Club, noted the speediness of his peers in making college selections, he didn’t push the button on Stanford until he knew it was the right move. His travels included visits to USC and California (both top-six NCAA finishers last year) as well as the Ivy League triumvirate of Harvard, Penn and Princeton.
“My class was very different in that a lot of the top high school swimmers made their choices early and I did notice that,” Boratto said. “But that didn’t really affect my decision. I went through the same process, took visits to all the schools I was considering. I wanted to make the decision when I did. I didn’t want to waste other coaches’ time.”
One detail he emphasized was vetting his international future. Boratto holds dual citizenship with the country of his father’s birth, Italy (his first name is Alessandro). Stanford excels in recruiting and developing an international cast of stars. In just the last decade, the Cardinal have launched Markus Rogan (Austria), David and Jason Dunford (Kenya), Phillip Morrison (Brazil) and Tobias Oriwol (Canada) to Olympics.
Boratto maintains that his primary objective is to represent the United States. But that path is difficult, requiring a top-two finish in the deep American field, whereas an Italian swimmer need only attain an Olympic A cut time. The paths of dual citizens and former Delco stars like Eugene Botes (South Africa) and Shane Ryan (Ireland) indicate the lure of that enduring designation as an Olympian.
“It always plays a small role, being able to have that as a possibility down the road,” Boratto said. “I made sure to tell all the coaches I talked to that this is an opportunity I may have and I asked, will you support this and is this a viable option, and I got the support that I was looking for.”