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Episcopal Academy swimmer Sam Wesley is Main Line Boys Athlete of the Week

The junior swimmer was a big part of the back-to-back record-breaking wins the Churchmen earned against Hill School and Haverford School earlier this month. Wesley broke the school and pool record in the 200 free with a time of 1:40.98, set the school record in the 100 free (46.25), helped the EA 200 medley relay team break the pool and school record with a clocking of 1:34.80, and helped the Episcopal 200 free relay and 400 free relay teams set pool records with times of 1:27.45 and 3:11.50, respectively. In the recent Winter Junior Nationals, he was a finalist in the 200 IM.


Q: What was working particularly well for you the week of the back-to-back record-setting wins against Haverford School and Hill School?


A: Going into those two dual meets, I knew I was going to be put into the 100 free and 200 free. In both races I planned to go out at a fast pace, while also saving some energy to finish hard. Having a strong finish in both of my races helped me break these records. I also knew that my opponents were going to be a challenge, so I was more focused on beating them, rather than breaking records. Coming off a fast meet at Winter Juniors, I knew I would have a lot of energy left to help my team.


Q: What is your most vivid memory of breaking the pool/school records with the relay teams that week?


A: Definitely the 200 free relay, due to what was at stake in the moment. Going into the race, we knew that we wanted to take down the pool record that had been set by The Haverford School two days before. Overall, the race was very close. Our relay was down about a half a second when I jumped into the water. I didn’t really focus on the swimmers around me, I just kept my head down and swam my race. When I finished into the wall, I looked up at the board and saw that we had not only won the race, but also set the pool record. My team surrounded me when I climbed out of the water, telling me how “clutch” it was. However, the race wasn’t won by just my swim, everyone on that race played a key role in breaking that record. Even my coaches and other peers on the pool deck helped by cheering us on. It’s a great feeling to know that all of us had our backs before and after the race.


Q: What do you feel is your strongest event, and what has been the biggest key to your success in that event?


A: It used to be my 200 back, but my quick development in my 200 IM has proved to be a very strong event both in high school meets and USA sanctioned meets. I’ve swam my IM the same way since April, however there has been a key factor that has shown my progress – my breaststroke leg. At Winter Juniors, I had the same splits as before in my previous best time in my fly, back and free, but this time I shaved nearly three seconds in my breaststroke leg alone. I’ve been critiquing it throughout the summer and early fall. I believe that I just have to attack this leg, not only because it is my weakest stroke, but most IM’ers tend to be great breaststrokers; something that I will have to continue work on.


Q: You were a finalist in the 200 IM at the Winter Junior Nationals. Tell us about the experience – what is your sharpest memory of Winter Junior Nationals?


A: I have to say, I really surprised myself during this meet. The 200 IM was my first race of the meet, so I knew I would have a lot of energy. All of my time improvement went towards that breaststroke leg. However, a successful prelims swim wasn’t the only reason why I was able to final. Another swimmer in my same heat dropped a little bit more time than me, and placed in the top 24 while I was placed right on the cusp of qualifying for finals, 25th (first alternate). I knew I would still have to be there in the event someone scratched. However, my coach texted me in the early afternoon telling me that swimmer decided to scratch to focus on swimming the 50 free. That night, my sharpest memory was walking over to the block and seeing him warming up, and I said to myself that I was pretty grateful. So not only did I need to have a great prelims swim, but also a little luck.


Q: Can you walk us through a typical day, or cycle, of training?


A: I try to go to at least one or two morning practices at EA each week, and if I do attend one, it lasts from 6:10 to 7:20 a.m. After school, I head to the athletic center usually about 15 minutes before practice starts to stretch or talk to my coach. We then have practice 3:45-5:30 p.m., and then put in some time at the gym until 6 p.m. On weekends, I’m with my YMCA team for two hours each day.


Q: What aspect of your swimming have you been working on the most recently?


A: It used to be devoted to breaststroke, and it has paid off since. Now I focus on getting a better flat start whenever I’m around the blocks. I always compare my relay splits to my regular flat starts, and they seem to be dramatically different. My goal by the end of the swimming season is to get my flat start times as close as possible to my relay splits. It may be the adrenaline of relays that makes me go faster, or maybe I need to condition myself more to have a powerful start; either way, I want to work on it.


Q: What pool did you first swim for?


A: When my twin brother Ben and I were 8, my parents decided for us to join the Prospect Park Swim Club. We showed a lot of potential that this could be our sport, but most of all, we truly enjoyed it.


Q: What is your favorite swimming venue, and why?


A: My favorite swimming venue is definitely the Greensboro Aquatic Center in North Carolina. Despite the long drive, I seem to compensate with fast swims. I love the pool because it holds a lot of space for athletes, coaches, and parents. When I step up on the blocks, I feel like a spotlight is shining on me.


Q: Who have been your biggest swimming mentors, and what was the most important thing each of them taught you?


A: I value and respect all of my coaches – my high school coaches like [Brian] Kline, Hyson, Lear and Kelly have made my short time at EA enjoyable and valuable.  They have helped me and my EA teammates really focus on our swimming goals. However, I can say the ones that know and support me the most are my YMCA head coaches: Erik Nelson and Jim Ryan. Both have coached me since I was 10 years old, and they supported me during my early development as a swimmer. Whenever I have feel like talking about something, they are always there for me to share their insight and wisdom on things even outside of swimming. The most important thing they have taught me is that I am responsible for my swimming career. If I come to practice with a hard work mentality, follow all the swim sets they give me, and strive to critique my stroke from time to time, I will improve.


Q: Tell us a little about your pre-meet preparation the day of a meet.


A: In the morning, I get up a little earlier than usual just to be ahead of schedule for the rest of the day; I do not like being rushed, especially on meet days. I usually eat cereal or a bagel with some yogurt, making my breakfast light but efficient. Whenever I get the chance throughout the day, I do some quick stretches and try to stay loose. Even though I have much focus on my schoolwork every day, on meet days I find time to think about my races. For lunch, I choose options that give me the right fuel for racing: Some carbs, fruits, and protein (but not too much meat). After school, I head over to the athletic center and walk onto the deck for stretching and warm ups. During this time, I’m psyching up my teammates, getting them ready for the meet.


Q: What would you like to major in at college?


A: My ideal major at the moment is communications/media studies. I’m particularly interested in this field because of how I will be able to project messages to audiences. I want to be challenged by building the basis of a framework of communication that can be reached to a group of people.


Q: You mentioned that you do volunteer work around your community. Tell us a little about this.


A: I assist my YMCA team at meets and teach younger kids how to swim. Last summer, I took this and my lifeguarding skills and volunteered at the Chester Memorial Park Pool two days a week. My brother and I lifeguarded, provided swim lessons, and made sure the pool stayed in good shape. I also sometimes go to the Transition Town Media Free Store which allows people to donate things that are still useful to others that are less fortunate. Volunteering around my community is important to my family.


Fun facts – Sam Wesley

Favorite book: Treasure Island.

Favorite author: J.R.R. Tolkien.

Favorite TV show: Seinfeld.

Favorite movie: Midnight Express.

Favorite athlete: Chase Utley.

Favorite pre-meet pump-up song: Robot Rock – Daft Punk.

Favorite team: Philadelphia Phillies.

Favorite place to visit: The Wanamaker Building, Center City.

Favorite pre-meet meal: Bagel with peanut butter.

Person I most admire: “Spike Lee – being a movie buff, I have a great knowledge of cinema. Despite having a many favorite directors, I admire the movies he directs the most. All of which address controversial topics like racism and discrimination in movies like Malcolm X, Do the Right Thing, and BlackKklansman. He not only is transforming the cinematic world, but also speaking out on behalf of racial topics.”

Family members: Cindy (mother), Michael (father), Dawn (stepmother), Ben (twin brother).

(To be selected as Main Line Boys Athlete of the Week, a student-athlete must first be nominated by his coach.)

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