When it comes to the swimming program at The King’s Academy, as junior swimmer Joshua Zuchowski goes, so goes the rest of the Lions’ squad.
If there’s any athlete at any school on any team in any sport who can accurately be classified as a catalyst, it’s Zuchowski. His results in the swimming pool speak for themselves, and they clearly help energize and motivate his teammates.
At the recently completed Florida High School Athletic Association’s Class 1A state swim meet at the Sailfish Splash Waterpark Aquatic Center in Stuart on Sunday, Nov. 15, Zuchowski won two individual events and was a member of two second-place relay teams.
For the second-straight year, Zuchowski was the FHSAA Class 1A state champion in the 200-yard individual medley. And for the third year in a row, he was the FHSAA Class 1A state champion in the 100-yard backstroke.
Meanwhile, by the end of this year’s state meet, the boys swim team from TKA had achieved its best-ever result at this state meet — 222 points and a solid second-place finish behind longtime state swimming powerhouse Jacksonville Bolles. The girls swim team from TKA also had a program-best finish at the meet — 125 points, good enough for fifth place.
Jonathan Zuchowski, the head coach of the swimming program and Joshua’s father, was delighted with the performance of his squad.
“I am very proud of the boys and the girls,” Coach Zuchowski said. “They met all of our expectations, which were very high.”
He praised his team in advance of the meet in Stuart because of their ever-present team-focused attitude.
“I told both teams these are the best swimming teams in TKA history,” Coach Zuchowski recalled. “Let’s make the most of our opportunity. I was hoping for second place for the boys and top five for the girls. It was about the team this year more than other years, and not about any one individual.”
Will the TKA boys dethrone Bolles next year in the team competition? Probably not.
“Nobody beats Bolles,” Coach Zuchowski said. “They get swimmers from all around the world. My whole team is from Palm Beach County. Our girls are young, and their best days are ahead of them. Our boys will be competitive at states next year — a top-five team. We lose seven seniors on the boys team.”
As for Joshua Zuchowski, his performances in Stuart were nothing short of brilliant and dominant. In the championship final of the 200-yard IM, his winning time was 1:46.85, which was nearly five seconds off his morning qualifying time and was nearly three seconds faster than his nearest competitor — Logan Ingerick, a junior from Berkeley Prep in Tampa. Zuchowski and Ingerick finished one-two in the 200-yard IM at last year’s state meet as well.
Zuchowski’s time was fast enough for an automatic All-American classification, and it was just off the FHSAA’s state record in this event. It’s not a question of if Zuchowski will break the 200-yard IM state mark next year, it’s a question of how low will he go.
“Josh is good enough to go easy in the morning sessions. So, he went easy. It was not a surprise,” Coach Zuchowski said. “Actually, he was slower than we hoped in finals. With the meet being moved from Friday (Nov. 13) to Sunday (Nov. 15) hurt him a lot. But no excuses. He should have broken the 200 IM record this year. Next year, he will break it.”
In the 100-yard backstroke, Zuchowski led from start to finish. At the halfway point, it was clearly Zuchowski’s race to win or lose. His 47.45 time — fast enough for another automatic All-American classification — was more than three seconds faster than the second-place finisher.
Zuchowski’s role on two of his team’s relay squads — 200-yard medley relay and 400-yard freestyle relay — played a big part in their two strong second-place finishes. In the championship final of the 200-yard medley relay, Zuchowski was the only swimmer to break 23 seconds in the opening backstroke leg. His 22.17 time gave his team an early lead in that race.
Other strong individual performances by other members of the Lions’ swim team were third by senior Pace Edwards in the boys 200-yard freestyle; sixth by freshman Logananne Zielinski in the girls 100-yard freestyle; seventh by Zielinski in the girls 50-yard freestyle; ninth by eighth-grader Kiersten Munna in the girls 500-yard freestyle; ninth by freshman Noah Smith and 10th by junior Eric Kempisty in the boys 100-yard backstroke; 10th by Munna in the girls 200-yard freestyle; 12th by sophomore Madison Sipowski in the girls 200-yard IM; 14th by junior Christian Proscia in the boys 100-yard butterfly; third by Pace and 10th by Proscia in boys 500-yard freestyle; and 12th by senior Rachel Clancy and 14th by Sipowski in the girls 100-yard breaststroke.
TKA senior Noah Sipowski deserves special recognition for his second-place finish in the boys 50-yard freestyle. He was the runner-up by the slimmest of margins — one-hundredth of a second.
In the all-important relays, where points for the team race are worth twice as much as individual performances, the King’s Academy boys finished second in the 200-yard medley relay, sixth in the 200-yard freestyle relay and second in the 400-yard freestyle relay. The girls finished 12th in the 200-yard medley relay, third in the 200-yard freestyle relay and fourth in the 400-yard freestyle relay.