Cumberland's Andrew Bauer is all smiles after winning a 50 meter freestyle event during a meet at Cumberland last year. PHOTO BY ERNEST A. BROWN
CUMBERLAND â 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 shouldnât.
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 âhigh school states,â are deemed much more critical because itâs 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 Boysâ Championships â slated for noon Sunday, Feb. 17 at Roger Williams University.
Hereâs why: He has both team and individual goals he desperately aspires to reach.
âThis meet is so important to me,â Bauer smiled while relaxing inside head coach Heidi Josephsonâs office at the Clippersâ natatorium Thursday afternoon. âI love doing this for my teammates, and â ultimately â itâs going to prepare me to swim in college. After all, itâs pretty much the same thing, except the races (in college) are a little longer, but youâre still competing to get points for your team.
âPlus, at that level, youâre expected to swim fast from the mid-season point on,â he added. âWith high school, itâs more fun because youâre a part of the team. Itâs not as individualized (as club swimming). I really like working with and for my teammates, and for my school.â
At that point, Josephson â with a big grin on her face â offered an âAhemmmm!â A blushing Bauer immediately stated, âAnd for my coach.â
Bauer is unique in that philosophy, but also another; if all goes well at states, he could erase one school record thatâs stood since about 1985-86, and shatter his own mark in another.
Most aquamen choose not to reveal the events in which theyâll take part, especially to the media, as they want to keep it a secret. They definitely donât 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.
âI can beat him, so Iâll do it,â they may say.
Bauer has no problem with that â in fact, he relishes it. Heâs simply a modest, polite kid who thrives on competition, just abhors losing.
Come next Sunday, heâll 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 Gilsonâs 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. Georgeâs School in Middletown just last week. He also shattered that poolâs long-standing mark.
In Bauerâs secondary event, heâll go shoulder-to-shoulder with the Ocean Stateâs best in the 500 freestyle, an event he snared at last weekendâs 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, heâll break Mark Bonneteymardâs 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.
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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 couldâve strived for a minimum of three more CHS marks.
They include late â80sâ/early â90sâ phemom Jay Pelusoâs 1:54.72 in the 200 individual medley; early â80sâ natural Don Huntâs 48.10 in the 100 freestyle; or the Clippersâ 1976-77 legend Kurt Langborgâs 21.82 in the 50 freestyle.
âLetâs 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,â 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).
âIn 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.
âEven if you add the five-tenths for a relay start (as opposed to a âdead,â or leadoff, start), he wouldâve shattered (Don) Huntâs record by about a second and a half,â she continued. âIn the 50, heâs not that far off Kurtâs record. Iâve been trying to tell people (who donât know much about competitive swimming) what a tremendous achievement that is.
âA lot of people donât realize Cumberland High swim records are outstanding; thatâs why theyâve been on the board for so long. For Andrew to break Mattâs record in the 200 (freestyle), one that lasted over a quarter-century, itâs incredible.â
What further blows Josephsonâs mind â but doesnât â is Bauerâs demeanor in and out of the pool.
âHeâs got a 3.5 GPA and ranks in the top 10 percent of his class, which is approximately 350,â she stated. âIn addition, heâs a consummate gentleman, so thoughtful, and heâs a smart swimmer. Heâs also very supportive of his teammates, but also super-competitive. He just loves to race, loves to win.
âIâve 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,â she added. âAndrew is as competitive and talented a swimmer as weâve seen at this institution, which is saying something.
âIâve known Kurt a long time, and I used to swim with Matt and Don and Mark (Bonneteymard). Iâm 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.
âAs much as he gets excited about a win, or disappointed in a loss, heâs 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.â
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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 Attleboroâs Hockomock YMCA, at age three, and adored it from the outset.
âWe 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,â Bauer blushed again. âShe had swum for Bruce, so she suggested I try Sher-Le-Mon.
âI 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),â he continued, âthen I went to the Attleboro Bluefish. I had heard from a friend that is was a more competitive and challenging team.â
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.
âI donât remember my time,â he laughed. âI think I was just excited to win and celebrate with some candy. That was what swimming was all about â the candy after the race and having fun with your teammates, the friendship and improving.â
When asked what drives him now, Bauer says the same things apply.
âIâm very competitive; I donât like losing, never have,â he said. âThe way not to lose is to keep working hard, practicing every day.â
Thereâs 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).
âI want to break the school records because Iâd like my name to be remembered,â he offered. âI 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.
âI 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 âŠ Iâm doing the 200 free because itâs my best event, but Iâd like it to be a little faster.
âRight now, Iâm tired, but Iâm feeling pretty good,â he added. âThis year, Iâve felt better than any other because of my training. Itâs prepared me to just step up to the blocks and race. Just mentally, I think I can overcome how I feel in the water. Itâs a mind-set thing. Iâm better at putting all thoughts aside about how I feel, the pain that comes with racing.
âMy coach (at Crimson), Skip Bryan, has helped me with that mental aspect; heâs told me that, even at mid-season, I can swim fast if I just put my mind to it.â
Josephson isnât sure where her boysâ 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 âbaby Bauerâ 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 âflyâ with another PR of 56.30.
âIf youâve noticed, Jack has improved his times in every meet heâs swum this season,â Josephson insisted. âHeâs gotten so much faster than we first started practice in December.
âI donât know how weâll do at states. We have some very talented swimmers; the quality is there, but our struggle is depth. We donât have enough boys who can place seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th (etc.) to score more points, and the reason is a majority of our kids donât swim year-round. Theyâre only in the water for three months of the year, like Jack. Andrew trains for 12 (months).â
When asked what he thinks of his older brotherâs chase for records, and what he should do to catch him, Jack grinned, âOooooh, man, thatâs tough! I guess Iâm just going to have to work hard and see where it takes me.â
Andrew responded with a chuckle: âIâm not going to let him take me down anytime soon. Itâs good we swim different events; I guess itâs just the âBig Brother competitiveness I have. I canât let my little brother beat me! I just canât let that happen.â
His opponents in the near future may have a bigger problem.