They say blood is thicker than water.
Yet in the Agnew family, water flows freely through their blood.
Pottsgrove senior Pat Agnew — the son of two area high school swimming coaches — is living proof of that notion. And his success in the water this season came, no doubt, as a culmination of the efforts both he and his parents devoted to the water.
Pat’s father, Mark Agnew, finished up his fifth season of coaching this past winter at Spring-Ford High School while his mother, Amy Agnew, completed her second season at The Hill School.
With parents who are both devoted swimming fanatics, it would be easy for one to assume that swimming is the only way of life in the Agnew household. No ifs, ands or buts about it.
Yet, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“It may sound shocking, but they never put any extra pressure on me to be a swimmer,” Agnew said of his parents. “I’ll always love them for that. They always told me to do whatever I wanted to do, whether it was swimming or something different.
“So this was always my choice, no one else’s. As far back as I remember, swimming has been a huge part of my life and I never want to let it go. I’ll always thank my parents for bringing it into my life in the first place.”
Agnew’s parents were present for some of his finest moments this past year.
The senior claimed a pair of Class AA gold medals at the District 1 Championships at La Salle University, then climbed on to the medal podium two weeks later at the PIAA Championships at Bucknell University. After his standout efforts in the water this winter, Agnew has been named the Mercury’s 2017-2018 All-Area Boys Swimmer of the Year.
Two years ago, Pottsgrove standouts Kevin Basch and Emily Glinecke were selected the 2016 All-Area Swimmers of the Year following their standout senior seasons. The next year, in Amy Agnew’s first year as head coach, Hill School senior Alberto Mestre earned the Boys All-Area honor.
Now, with Pat Agnew, the distinction is back at Pottsgrove.
“It came as a shock to me at first, but this is an honor,” said Agnew. “It’s really an honor to keep this tradition going at Pottsgrove. I know we’ve had a lot of great swimmers in the past with Emily (Glinecke), Kevin (Basch) and even Mikey Prior last year. So to be mentioned along with them is really special.”
Although he admits he’s never been pushed by his parents to pursue swimming, Agnew says that some of his best lessons in the sport have come over the dinner table.
“After a big meet or a big race, we’ll all sit and talk about it,” he said. “It’s funny, I get the coaching tips and the parents’ perspective sort of all into one conversation. It’s extremely helpful for me. It’s definitely nice to have help from other coaches, but having my parents is great because I know that they’re always looking out for me — both as a swimmer and as their son.”
Looking out for him, of course, except for perhaps one meet a year.
Agnew admits there was always an interesting element any time he and the Falcons went up against his father’s Spring-Ford team during the season.
“I never want to lose a race while, especially when I’m in front of my dad,” said Agnew. “There were a lot of times he’d put their fastest guys in races against me just because he could. So I always liked to put my all in the water just to impress him, even though he already knows what I’m capable of.”
His efforts at districts last February would have impressed anybody.
Agnew defended his Class AA titles in both the 50- and 100-yard freestyle races, cutting substantial time off both of his recordings from the year before. At the end of the two-day meet, he was named the Class AA Outstanding Swimmer.
“Districts was probably one of my favorite weekends all year,” said Agnew. “I just went into it knowing that I had worked my whole season basically just for those two days. I always have the right mindset, I was ready to get in there and get out as fast as I can.
“I put a little pressure on myself this year,” he said of defending his medals. “I thought maybe there would be a new freshman or sophomore coming up who could take my spot. But I just shut that out the day of. I knew it was my time.”
Two weeks later, Agnew found himself in a familiar place at states. And this time, he had arrived with one thing on his mind.
“I just wanted to get on that podium more than anything,” he said. “Last year was disappointing. Going to states is fun and all, but if you’re not at the podium at the end, it’s a lot different.”
During his first individual trip to the PIAA Championships as a junior, Agnew didn’t make it out of the morning’s preliminary swim, finishing 18th overall in the 50 free and 29th in the 100 free.
This time around, he was as determined as ever.
Agnew secured himself a spot in both championship finals, eventually finishing fourth overall in the 50 free (21.24) and eighth in the 100 free (47.75) to secure two spots on the medal stand by the end of the weekend.
“I didn’t want to leave Pottsgrove and not be on that podium at least once,” he said.
As he took to the medal stand and conquered a goal he had set out to achieve since arriving at Pottsgrove, Agnew could look up into the stands and find two familiar faces cheering him on: the ones he’d asked to show the way.
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