To say they’re “rookies” to swimming would be a misnomer, a misunderstanding.
It’s true that this is the first year Everett Werner and Alex Wright are turning out for their high school swim team – the Olympia Bears. But, it’s hardly the first time they’ve finished a lap.
Werner and Wright are like fish, water lovers. Since they were 5, they’ve swam on a club team. Now, as seniors at Olympia High School, they’re double dippers, turning out for their high school team for the first time and turning out for their club team as well.
That means on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, before the sun rises, they’re in the pool by 5:00 a.m. swimming laps for nearly two hours for their club team. Then, in the afternoons, five days a week, they’re swimming laps for coach Mel Smith and the Bears for another two hours.
All total, these two swimming Bears are in the pool swimming laps, churning about 65 miles a week.
“They’re dedicated,” Smith said, “that’s for sure. They don’t goof around.”
And their dedication – putting in about 25 hours a week – hasn’t gone without reward. They’ve both accepted Division I scholarships for swimming. Werner will swim for Duke next year and Wright will swim for Virginia Tech.
This year, they’ll both be swimming for the Bears at the 4A state swim meet, swimming for state titles and for school records. On their club teams, both Werner and Wright surpassed OHS school records. Now, they aim to log the same times swimming those same events for the Bears to be entered into the history books.
“Swimming just kind of takes your mind off the regular daily life stuff,” Wright said when asked what he liked about swimming. “I can come into the pool and I get a workout in that day and I’ll just feel good about it. I accomplished something. I feel good about myself. I can take my angst out on the water and that’s a good feeling. It’s a nice little release.”
Both Wright and Werner have found something they’re extremely good at and are passionate about.
“I’m glad I turned out for my high school team,” Werner said. “I was ready for it. It was a good time to try it.”
To say Werner is top seeded in the 200 and 500 freestyle is a bit of an understatement. In the 200 freestyle, going into the league meet, he was two seconds faster than the next closest swimmer. In the 500, he was a whopping 15 seconds faster.
Likewise, Wright is a speedster in the pool. He was the top seed in the 100 butterfly by a second and the 100 backstroke by three seconds. Both have set their sights on school records that go back to 1975, held by Steve Nelson who swam for USC and was in the Olympic Trials.
Werner broke Nelson’s individual medley relay record in the Bears’ first meet.
With Werner and Wright leading the way, the 2018 Bears are loaded with talent. Smith is expecting 17 Bears to qualify for state.
“Both Everett and Alex have been a very pleasant edition to the team,” Smith said. “They relate to all the kids. They do some stroke work with some of the newer swimmers, which then allowed us to work with the rest of the team on other things. Plus, they’re fun. They’re good high school boys.”
A couple of other school records are within shot for the Bears. There’s two relay teams – the medley relay and the 400 freestyle relay – that are close to breaking a school record.
“We hope that happens,” Smith said.
Both Werner and Wright began swimming for the Evergreen Swim Club when they were just five and were soon competing in swim meets. Werner’s introduction to swimming was genetic. His mother, Haleigh Werner, is still an exceptional swimmer. After swimming in college, Haleigh, a local physician, still swims competitively, placing high at national master meets and at 10-mile swims.
“My mom said we’re going to teach him how to swim,” Everett said about his beginnings in swimming. “I’ve been taking club since then.”
Until he was in seventh grade, Everett was always involved with other sports including baseball and soccer. Then, he decided he just wanted to swim.
“I’m a lot better at it than those other sports,” Everett said. “I was not good at baseball. Not good at soccer. I didn’t try basketball.”
Werner and Wright have been swimming together since they were about seven or eight. At first, Wright was just a tag along with his brother to swim practices.
“I got stuck wandering around the pool deck,” Wright said, “and kind of got bored. I got into swim lessons and was just going to get into the pool because it was more fun to swim than walk around the deck not having anyone to talk to.” It didn’t take Wright long to make an important discovery about swimming – he was good at it.
Both Wright and Werner aren’t just good swimmers, either. They’re also good students with A averages in their senior years.
Whether in the pool or in the classroom, both always give it their best shot. It’s been a winning formula for both these two swimming Bears.