Belonging to a different type of sports team
It’s one of those sports that isn’t talked about much until it’s time for the Summer Olympics.
But for two high school students from Washington, the sport means quite a bit.
Noah Bruns and Ben Berhow are two swimmers on the Iowa City West High School team and the two decided to join the team for a different kind of competition.
“I, personally, wanted to take it to the next level,” Berhow said. “I was swimming at the Y and doing pretty well.
But Noah was swimming in high school and I saw his times dropping and I wanted to catch up to him.”
“It’s the challenge that drives me to go farther,” Bruns said.
Bruns and Berhow are part of the Washington Water Sharks and competing on a high school team has helped them improve.
“It has helped a lot, especially at meets.” Bruns said.
“At West, they have a 25-yard pool and here we have a 20-yard pool. When we go to meets, it’s at a regulation-sized pool and we are used to that.”
“We have meets Tuesdays and Saturdays for high school,” Berhow said, “so we have twice as many meets as we do here.
“When we get behind the block, we’ve been there enough, we have a good mind-set and are ready to go because we’ve done it a thousand times.”
Bruns, who has been swimming for nine years, attends Iowa Mennonite School. Berhow is home-schooled and has been swimming for the last seven years.
They chose swimming for different reasons.
“I was never very coordinated to play basketball,” Bruns said, “or I wasn’t big enough to play football, so being a small guy, I could zip through the water easily.”
“I took swimming lessons when I was younger,” Berhow said. “My parents knew the swimming coach, Brenda Adrian, and I was OK at swimming.
“I started taking lessons, then eventually decided to come out for this. Then when I got to be a freshman, I joined the team.”
The high school meets are different from when the Water Sharks compete.
“They are definitely more competitive,” Berhow said.
“The swimmers there are better. They train more. It helps you to swim faster because you are swimming against other people your speed. There’s people there to push you.”
Both competed at the state level this year and said it was an awesome experience.
“That was probably my favorite meet,” Berhow said. “The atmosphere there was great.
“It was so loud that you couldn’t hear anything beyond the blocks and you are swimming against the best swimmers in the state. It’s a great feeling to be in the pool with them and be one of them.”
“They are the best swimmers in the state,” Bruns said. “They deserve to be there as much as you do. They work their hardest and you work your hardest to show up and perform.”
Bruns, who is a senior, will miss the competitiveness of the meets.
“I have become really close friends with the swimmers on my team,” he said. “I’m going to really miss those guys.
“That’s one thing about high school swimming, is that you’re more part of a team.
“Here at the Y, it’s more like an individual sport, but in high school, everyone is on the edge of the pool cheering when you swim.
“It’s much more of a team atmosphere. We’re all very close to each other. We go out to dinner after practice a lot.”
As for needing experience before joining the team, you don’t have to have it.
“There were people on our team that hadn’t been swimming at all,” Bruns said. “They still had a lot of fun and did pretty well toward the end of the season.
“You just have to work at it. You can go on a team and not be any good, but you can still have a lot of fun and advance your ability to swim a lot.
“Swimming is one of those sports that if you’re willing to go to practice and put in the yards, even if you’re not that good, if you practice, do the sets and work hard every day, it’s something at which you can do well.
“You can drop times, usually pretty consistently, if you put in the work. Anyone who is willing to commit can be a good swimmer.”