CV’s Damich goes the distance

Published Mar 19, 2013 at 2:44 pm (Updated Mar 19, 2013 at 2:44 pm)

Who says you can’t be good at something you don’t like? Certainly not Drew Damich.

The Chartiers Valley sophomore may not enjoy swimming long distances, but he’s a state champion anyhow.

In fact, after last week’s PIAA championships, he’s a double winner. Damich won gold medals in two freestyle races, the 200-yard, 8-lap event, as well as the longer 500, a 20-lap race.

“I like the 500 because I’m good at it, but I don’t like to swim it,” Damich explained. “It’s long and it’s tiring.”

The 500 event against Jarod Kehl certainly exhausted Damich. For Damich out-touched his rival from Montour by .53 seconds. Damich won the race in 4:33.75 while Kehl, finished in 4:34.28.

“I wanted to tire him out in the beginning, but he did not get tired,” Damich said. “He hung in there.”

Unlike in the WPIAL championships, where Damich won in 4:40.87, 5.5 seconds ahead of his adversary, Kehl hung in there. He even led until the 19th lap, setting up the dramatic finish.

“I’ve been in a lot of close races but not at this level, not at a state championship,” said Damich. “Winning the 500 was more exciting.

“This is what I’ve been training for all year. Working on finishing and racing harder. You want to take it out fast and hold on to the end.”

Whether he is training after classes with his high school club or whether he is attending morning workouts with the Mt. Lebanon Aqua Club, Damich focuses on holding a pace and working hard intervals during his best-average sets for the 500. He always trains with the distance groups.

“I’m not allowed in the other groups. Everybody likes the sprints,” he said.

Damich sprinted to victory in the 200, however. In doing so, he beat Matthew Leenhouts from Fleetwood by more than a second.

“The 200 was really exciting because I was extra nervous,” said Damich, who won that distance as well as the WPIAL District 7 finals. “On the blocks, my heart was beating so fast. I started feeling okay once I was in the water.”

Once in his element, Damich sailed to victory in 1:40.52. He shattered the school record in the process.

“I knew I was ready,” Damich said. “I trained all year for this. So, I’m really happy with my time and my place. I felt all my training paid off.”

While his efforts paid off in one school record, Damich is still chasing the top time in the 500. The mark is 4:31.70 held by ______ Ludwick. Ludwick set the 200 record as well more than 30 years ago.

“One of my bigger goals is to get that (500 record),” said Damich.

With two more seasons of high school swimming remaining, that aim is achievable. For now though, Damich is focused on his next competition.

This Thursday through Saturday, he will compete in sectionals at Virginia Tech. He is entered in the 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000 freestyle races as well as the 200 butterfly and IM.

“I’ll be really tired,” he said, “but you do as many races as possible in a meet like this. It’s good to do as many events as you can.”

Indeed, it’s good to go the distance and Damich obliges his coaches. “If I have to do the 1,000 or the mile, I’ll do whatever the coaches want,” he said.

Because he sports a GPA that hovers between 3.8 and 3.9, Damich could do what he chooses in college. His long-term goals are to swim for a Division I program while pursuing an engineering degree. While he admits his dream school would be Stanford, Damich said, “I’m not sure that my grades would be good enough. I’d love to go somewhere south, somewhere warm.”

But not necessarily somewhere that offers a shortcut to success. No, Damich goes the distance.

“Through swimming,” he said, “I have learned that hard work pays off and never give up. Those two things will always help you in life.”

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