CUMBERLAND — There are swimmers out there who belong to a USA Swimming, Inc.-affiliated club who either choose not to compete on the high school level or are told by their coaches they shouldn’t.
In these parts, they make those decisions for this reason: Meets such as the New England Senior Championships or the regional Age Group equivalent, always mere days after “high school states,” are deemed much more critical because it’s the road most traveled to qualify for more visible national events.
Cumberland High senior Andrew Bauer is definitely not one of those athletes. To wit, the renowned 18-year-old Clipper, who also represents Crimson Aquatics of Whitinsville, is nipping at the bit to take part in the R.I. State Boys’ Championships – slated for noon Sunday, Feb. 17 at Roger Williams University.
Here’s why: He has both team and individual goals he desperately aspires to reach.
“This meet is so important to me,” Bauer smiled while relaxing inside head coach Heidi Josephson’s office at the Clippers’ natatorium Thursday afternoon. “I love doing this for my teammates, and – ultimately – it’s going to prepare me to swim in college. After all, it’s pretty much the same thing, except the races (in college) are a little longer, but you’re still competing to get points for your team.
“Plus, at that level, you’re expected to swim fast from the mid-season point on,” he added. “With high school, it’s more fun because you’re a part of the team. It’s not as individualized (as club swimming). I really like working with and for my teammates, and for my school.”
At that point, Josephson – with a big grin on her face – offered an “Ahemmmm!” A blushing Bauer immediately stated, “And for my coach.”
Bauer is unique in that philosophy, but also another; if all goes well at states, he could erase one school record that’s stood since about 1985-86, and shatter his own mark in another.
Most aquamen choose not to reveal the events in which they’ll take part, especially to the media, as they want to keep it a secret. They definitely don’t want to tip off to other premier swimmers that information; it could only inspire those excellent athletes to register for those races for the simple reason of pride.
“I can beat him, so I’ll do it,” they may say.
Bauer has no problem with that – in fact, he relishes it. He’s simply a modest, polite kid who thrives on competition, just abhors losing.
Come next Sunday, he’ll swim the 200-yard freestyle, and most probably be the top seed, as he won that event at the Read/Watmough Invitational Championships a few weeks back with a new school record of 1:46.41 (despite strong competition from fellow Weston, Mass. senior Tommy Peacher. That mark destroyed former CHS standout Matt Gilson’s old time, one that had stood for 26 years.
Surprisingly, he broke his own record with a time of 1:46.33 in a mere dual meet against North Kingstown at St. George’s School in Middletown just last week. He also shattered that pool’s long-standing mark.
In Bauer’s secondary event, he’ll go shoulder-to-shoulder with the Ocean State’s best in the 500 freestyle, an event he snared at last weekend’s R.I. Division I meet (again at Roger Williams) with a solid clocking of 4:55.61.
(Actually, he did his best time ever, 4:53.51, at the USA Swimming, Inc.-sanctioned Star Invitational in Buffalo, N.Y. in December 2011. Should he plow through the water only 52-hundredths of a second faster, he’ll break Mark Bonneteymard’s school record of 4:53.00).
At the same D-I event, he took the 200 freestyle with ease in 1:46.60, though his previous PR is an astonishing 1:42.86, achieved at the New England Seniors meet at Boston University a couple of months ago.
See BAUER, page B4
Continued from page B1
To exhibit just how talented this kid is, if nationwide interscholastic rules dictate he could swim more than two individual races and two relays (or one solo and three relays), Bauer could’ve strived for a minimum of three more CHS marks.
They include late ‘80s’/early ‘90s’ phemom Jay Peluso’s 1:54.72 in the 200 individual medley; early ‘80s’ natural Don Hunt’s 48.10 in the 100 freestyle; or the Clippers’ 1976-77 legend Kurt Langborg’s 21.82 in the 50 freestyle.
“Let’s put it this way: In a dual meet against Smithfield, he won the 50 in 22.24, then won the 100 in (a PR of) 48.52, but it gets better,” explained Josephson, herself a former Cumberland standout under then-head coach Bruce Calvert.
(By the way, Gilson, Peluso, Langborg and Calvert all were selected to the R.I. Aquatic Hall of Fame years ago for their speed, not to mention monumental contributions to the sport).
“In that same meet, Andrew was anchoring the (final) 400 free relay, and was behind the Smithfield kid by three or four body lengths, but you could tell he was going to catch him. He ended up winning by over a body length, and had a split of 46.10.
“Even if you add the five-tenths for a relay start (as opposed to a ‘dead,’ or leadoff, start), he would’ve shattered (Don) Hunt’s record by about a second and a half,” she continued. “In the 50, he’s not that far off Kurt’s record. I’ve been trying to tell people (who don’t know much about competitive swimming) what a tremendous achievement that is.
“A lot of people don’t realize Cumberland High swim records are outstanding; that’s why they’ve been on the board for so long. For Andrew to break Matt’s record in the 200 (freestyle), one that lasted over a quarter-century, it’s incredible.”
What further blows Josephson’s mind – but doesn’t – is Bauer’s demeanor in and out of the pool.
“He’s got a 3.5 GPA and ranks in the top 10 percent of his class, which is approximately 350,” she stated. “In addition, he’s a consummate gentleman, so thoughtful, and he’s a smart swimmer. He’s also very supportive of his teammates, but also super-competitive. He just loves to race, loves to win.
“I’ve been the head coach here for three years, but I helped Bruce (Calvert, who was the aquatic director and mentor for over 40 years at Cumberland) on and off for over 10,” she added. “Andrew is as competitive and talented a swimmer as we’ve seen at this institution, which is saying something.
“I’ve known Kurt a long time, and I used to swim with Matt and Don and Mark (Bonneteymard). I’m aware of all of the times they produced, and Andrew is on a par with all of them. They were the best, and he is, too. He also has outstanding sportsmanship. He knows how important being a part of a team is.
“As much as he gets excited about a win, or disappointed in a loss, he’s always the consummate gentleman, sportsman, teammate and captain. His desire to achieve is way up there, and his desire to work hard is right with it. He works so hard for everything he gets.”
Bauer has been in the water a long time, but has always reveled in it.
He first jumped into a pool with his mom Judy, at North Attleboro’s Hockomock YMCA, at age three, and adored it from the outset.
“We later got a membership at Sher-Le-Mon (across Mendon Road from CHS), and I was taking lessons from Jessica Busch (a former Clipper aquagirl) when I was about six or seven,” Bauer blushed again. “She had swum for Bruce, so she suggested I try Sher-Le-Mon.
“I also swam for the (Boys and Girls Club Cumberland-Lincoln) Penguins for a year under Paul Phillips (the ex-Lincoln High mentor now at Clark University in Worcester),” he continued, “then I went to the Attleboro Bluefish. I had heard from a friend that is was a more competitive and challenging team.”
He recalled winning, as a nine-year-old, the 25 butterfly at the All-Pool Meet, a summer cabana-club event for the fastest youth swimmers in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts, at Kendbrin Swim and Tennis Club in East Providence.
“I don’t remember my time,” he laughed. “I think I was just excited to win and celebrate with some candy. That was what swimming was all about – the candy after the race and having fun with your teammates, the friendship and improving.”
When asked what drives him now, Bauer says the same things apply.
“I’m very competitive; I don’t like losing, never have,” he said. “The way not to lose is to keep working hard, practicing every day.”
There’s another reason he shares time with both CHS friends and Crimson Aquatics, usually logging between 55-60,000 yards a week (when not lifting weights, running or doing other dry-land drills).
“I want to break the school records because I’d like my name to be remembered,” he offered. “I want to leave my mark on the dynasty that was and is Cumberland High swimming. I want to come back someday and see if anyone has taken my records, see if it (notice the singular?) still stands.
“I know all about the outstanding swimmers who have come out of this school, and to be one of the top ones, that would be pretty cool … I’m doing the 200 free because it’s my best event, but I’d like it to be a little faster.
“Right now, I’m tired, but I’m feeling pretty good,” he added. “This year, I’ve felt better than any other because of my training. It’s prepared me to just step up to the blocks and race. Just mentally, I think I can overcome how I feel in the water. It’s a mind-set thing. I’m better at putting all thoughts aside about how I feel, the pain that comes with racing.
“My coach (at Crimson), Skip Bryan, has helped me with that mental aspect; he’s told me that, even at mid-season, I can swim fast if I just put my mind to it.”
Josephson isn’t sure where her boys’ team will place at the state meet, but knows for sure the Clippers will score a lot of points, courtesy of not just Bauer but his kid brother, sophomore Jack.
The “baby Bauer” will compete in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke, and Josephson anticipates him to be seeded in the top five in both.
At the D-I championships at RWU last Sunday, Jack placed second at the backstroke distance with a best-ever clocking of 58.30; that came after he took third in the “fly” with another PR of 56.30.
“If you’ve noticed, Jack has improved his times in every meet he’s swum this season,” Josephson insisted. “He’s gotten so much faster than we first started practice in December.
“I don’t know how we’ll do at states. We have some very talented swimmers; the quality is there, but our struggle is depth. We don’t have enough boys who can place seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th (etc.) to score more points, and the reason is a majority of our kids don’t swim year-round. They’re only in the water for three months of the year, like Jack. Andrew trains for 12 (months).”
When asked what he thinks of his older brother’s chase for records, and what he should do to catch him, Jack grinned, “Oooooh, man, that’s tough! I guess I’m just going to have to work hard and see where it takes me.”
Andrew responded with a chuckle: “I’m not going to let him take me down anytime soon. It’s good we swim different events; I guess it’s just the ‘Big Brother competitiveness I have. I can’t let my little brother beat me! I just can’t let that happen.”
His opponents in the near future may have a bigger problem.