By Sandra McKee, The Baltimore Sun
6:43 PM EST, December 12, 2012
David Harmon,17, has been swimming for eight years for Spy Swimming at the Severna Park Community Center and is in his fourth season on the Archbishop Spalding swim team.
In that time he has become a three-time YMCA district champion, a multiple YMCA state and national finalist, an annual Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association championship finalist, and, most recently, a participant at the Junior National Championships in Knoxville, Tenn., where he set personal best times in the 100 (50.16 seconds) and 200 (1:52.04) butterflies.
Archbishop Spalding coach Peter Davis said the Cavaliers have benefited from Harmon's training with the Spy Swim Club.
"He does almost all of his training with Spy," Davis said. "I just reap the results. David is the fastest butterflier and backstroker we've ever seen in the history of our team and the reason is it's all about him and his Spy coaches. I expect he'll sweep his events at the MIAA championships this February."
At Spy, Harmon is coached by Jim Hutcheson and Crystee Ballard. Hutcheson said Harmon is gifted with speed, strength, flexibility and the ability to focus on his goals..
"He also has a good technical base," Hutcheson said. "He learned early and has kept it fun."
Harmon, who carries a 3.8 grade point average, has also used the sport to get where he wants to go. And that's to the Ivy League's Dartmouth College, where he will swim and major in programming or "some kind of engineering."
How did you get started in swimming?
When I was a kid my parents made me do all the sports to figure out what I liked. Swimming turned out to be what I'm best at. Another factor was my neighborhood swim team coach is Spy coach Jim Hutcheson, and he convinced my parents to let me participate.
What did you like about it?
I was good at it. And it's different from other sports. When you succeed, it's you did that. At my school, hockey is a big sport. And after games you hear the players talking about one guy having a big game, but it's the team that wins or loses. But it's just me in swimming,
I love my team, but the reason I like the sport is that I've been really successful at it.
What personality assets do you need to succeed in swimming?
Patience. You have to train and swim all year round and you only have a few meets. I probably have as many meets in a year as people have in a season. It takes a patient person to work hard and focus on the end result, which might not come for three or four months.
Did your parents swim and do they give you advice?
My mom swam for a local team, but she didn't do club like I do. And they don't give me advice. I think that's good. I'm just back from junior nationals and between swims, standing around, I could hear insane conversations with parents and I thought, 'Thank God I don't have parents like that.' And I heard some intense coaches, too, and I thought, 'Thank God I don't have coaches like that.'
There are faster clubs in Maryland I could have gone to, but this is a YMCA club. We raise people, not just swimmers.
Every day I get asked am I the next Michael Phelps, like there is no doubt I want to be another Michael Phelps. But do I want the rest of my life to be all about swimming? No. I try to model my strokes after Phelps and Ryan Lochte. But everything they do isn't necessarily going to make my swimming better.
Everyone talks about Michael Phelps having webbed feet, like a fish. My feet are average.
You don't have webbed feet. So why do you think you're so good at swimming?
I listen to my coaches. We practice eight times a week [for an hour and 15 minutes each session with Spy]. Twice a week we have two practices before school starts and one after on the same day. If you don't listen, you practice the wrong things over and over and you do it wrong. We "dry land," work in the weight room twice a week. At Dartmouth next year, every practice will be two hours.
Why did you choose Dartmouth?
I want to do something with my life other than swim. Swimming got me there. It could be another reason why I'm dedicated. I got my acceptance letter last Thursday.
Do you have a goal for this season?
I really want to make winter senior nationals. I have to qualify for them and my times, after junior nationals last week, are close. I'm just 0.6 off in the 100 fly and two seconds off the cut for the 200 fly. It's just a matter of working harder on perfecting my strokes and endurance so I can do well later in the races.
If you could have a do-over in anything in swimming or in life, what would it be?
I don't know that I would want to do anything over. I got in to Dartmouth, where I wanted more than anything to go, and swimming helped me do that. I love everything about the school — the atmosphere, the area it's in [New Hampshire], where I can go skiing, which I love to do. And the academics. It's an Ivy, so it's known for its academics, but it's not academics or die. It's not competitive within itself. The students there seem to know how to transition easily between work and play.
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