Freshman swimmer sets sight on Junior Olympics

This year’s varsity swim team is full of talented freshman, but few are able to say that they have beaten an Olympic gold medalist. Eric Wang, a new freshman this year, is one of the exceptions.

At 12 years old, he raced Olympic swimmer Simone Manuel during practice with his club, First Colony Swim Club, where Manuel also previously trained.

Now, Wang is breaking records for the Mavericks, swimming his way to SPC and coming close to Junior Olympics-qualifying times. At the annual Texas Interscholastic Coaches Association meet in Corpus Christi, Wang broke the 100 yard breastroke record with a time of 1:02.76.

While Wang didn’t actually train at First Colony with Manuel, they raced while she was back for a visit.

“My coach at the time knew her pretty well, so I got to race her in a 50,” Wang said. “She’s obviously much faster. She wasn’t a hundred percent racing a twelve year old, but I technically won.”

Like many swimmers, Wang began his career with a middle school swim team. Pushed by his friends and family, he joined First Colony Swim Club in sixth grade.

“At first I just did it because my parents wanted me to do it,” Wang said. “But then I found out I was actually good at this, so I started getting more into it and loving the sport.”

In middle school, he participated in soccer, basketball, and tennis but has since shifted his focus solely to swimming. Because he currently swims 22 hours a week, he has little free time.

After three years with First Colony, he began swimming with Houston Swim Club. A normal day for Wang consists of up to four and a half hours with the swim team, including morning practice, dryland training and afternoon practice.

Wang’s primary goal for the season is to lower his time in his favorite event ―  the 50 yard freestyle ― in order to qualify for the National Club Swimming Association Junior Nationals in Orlando, Florida, this March. He currently swims two laps in 22.5 seconds, and the time he needs is 21.69 seconds.

Although Maverick swim coach Ben Pressley hasn’t seen much of Wang because Wang mainly practices with his club team, he has already been impressed by the freshman.

“He’s a fast kid,” said Pressley. “But, from what I’ve seen, he’s also very polite, focused, driven. That’s everything you want in an athlete. I would prefer if every kid was swimming with us, but if he’s getting what he needs to get done at the club that he’s at, more power to him.”

Freshman swimmer Lexie Farnell agrees that Wang is both a talented athlete and a kind person.

“Sometimes really good athletes can be arrogant about their skills, but Eric is really nice and cool about it,” said Farnell.

It’s a matter of putting an honest effort and he does that every day. I never question his effort.

Wang’s coach at Houston Swim Club, Gilbert Legaspi, also appreciates his work ethic. As for reaching the Junior National speed cutoff, Legaspi says it is only a matter of time until Wang qualifies.

“Eric’s probably one of the hardest workers out there. He follows what I tell him to do. If he does that, good things happen,” Legaspi said. “It’s a matter of putting an honest effort and he does that every day. I never question his effort.”

Although he is still adjusting to the workload at St. John’s, Wang not only tries to attend all of his club’s practices but also works diligently during them.

“I think it comes down to discipline to not just float around during every practice and actually get something done,” Wang said.

To remind the swimmers of the techniques they learned and what sets they did, his club coach asks him and his teammates to write in their own journals after each practice.

“You write how you felt about your performance that day. Maybe you expected to hold a better time or have formed expectations of what you can do next time,” Wang said.

Although the Junior Nationals is Wang’s goal for the time being, he ultimately hopes to compete in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.

“I feel like competing at Olympic Trials would definitely be inspiring because I would be meeting and swimming against some of the fastest people in the U.S.,” Wang said. ‘Getting there would be a major accomplishment for me.”