As Young Tae Seo leaves the Crescenta Valley High boys’ swimming program in his rearview mirror, there’s no doubt his coach, teammates and the Falcons faithful will look back and remember him fondly.
Over these past four years, Seo racked up 15 Pacific League and 10 CIF Southern Section Division II championships before he graduated from Crescenta Valley in June. He currently holds seven of 11 league records and two Division II standards.
Seo, who’s headed to the Naval Academy next year, earned the All-Area Boys’ Swimmer of the Year award in each of his high school seasons. He’s also now been voted the James H. Jenkins Male Athlete of the Year in consecutive campaigns in 2012-13.
Perhaps more impressive than his individual accolades was how he elevated his team, which was already a dominant force in the Pacific League and top-10 force in Division II.
In 2009 before Seo’s arrival, CV finished seventh in CIF and jumped all the way to second in his debut season. The Falcons wouldn’t finish outside the top three over the next three seasons and won their first title in 12 years in 2012.
Right from the starting gun, Seo gave his CV teammates someone to look up to. It started with his performances alone, as the freshman won a CIF and three league titles. It was just a baby step for Seo, who went on to dominate in league, CIF and the area over the rest of his career.
In his adieu to the Falcons, Seo put on a show at league finals that led to four league championship and three record-setting swims to help secure CV’s 21st consecutive league championship. At CIF, he won two more titles with record-breaking performances in the 200-yard medley relay and 200 individual medley. He also finished runner-up in the 100 breaststroke, a major disappointment for him, and 400-freestyle relay.
Seo not only reflected back on his senior season, but his whole career when he recently sat down with the Glendale News-Press’ Andrew Shortall. He also took a moment to look ahead to what the future holds for him, and ponder how he’ll be remembered at CV for what he did not only in, but out of the pool.
The following are excerpts from the interview with Seo.
Andrew Shortall: Your high school season is over, has that sunk in for you yet or is it still kind of surreal it’s all over at Crescenta Valley?
Young Tae Seo: No, it hasn’t hit me yet. I think I’m going to go back to CV again next year, which is not true, I am going to another high school for prep school. The Naval Academy program doesn’t have a swim team, so I have to go to another high school with the Naval Academy to go to prep school. As of now, I don’t feel anything. That day of graduation, I felt it that I graduated but the day after that, I was like, “Oh, I’m going to go back to CV next year.” But now I don’t know, it didn’t hit me yet. I think it will hit me during August when I leave for prep school. It’s going to be kind of interesting.
AS: I remember at the end of CIF it was you, Harrison [Thai], Edward [Yi] and Eric [Park], you guys just sat in the pool and didn’t come out. You guys were in there long after everyone else. What was that? Was it you and Harrison not wanting to see it all end?
YS: I was mad after the [breaststroke], I was really upset and I was really out of mind. I was really angry so I didn’t think anything, so I went to lead off [the 400-yard freestyle relay] and after we finished we went to the other side, all four people. I was kind of sad that I couldn’t avenge next year in the 100 breast. If it was freshman year, it would be like, “OK, I have three more years,” but senior year I lost to a junior guy, and I couldn’t avenge anymore; the high school season is over. I was kind of sad it was over and I lost, and we said it together, “You guys got to do great next year. Even though this year is gone, you guys have to swim fast and represent CV.” I don’t know, it was kind of emotional and then Los Osos started jumping in and we knew that feeling. Last year, we were right there, the same place. But we didn’t win this year, so we didn’t have that feeling. We knew how Damien felt last year.
AS: Can you tell me about your focus for your senior year? Obviously, it was the last year, the last hooray, you’ve had so many great years. What was your focus coming into this season?
YS: I kind of slacked off I think for the first time ever in my life. This year I tried to change, since Louis [Wojciechowski] left we lost 60 points [at CIF], so actually me and Harrison tried to do more stuff than any other time. The main focus was actually breaking my own [Division II] records — I did in 100 breast but I lost, and for the 200 IM I broke it again. Our main focus this year was to repeat, we wanted to win back-to-back, but it didn’t happen. That was our main focus to win CIF.
AS: You say you slacked off, what was it just senior year — senioritis?
YS: Not really. After the summer, after the break I was out of shape. When I came back and I was weak, I was tired and I wanted to take a break. I reminded myself in April, “Oh, CIF’s coming up.” Then in league I was like, “I’m going to break more records,” but I knew that I wasn’t in shape. I knew I couldn’t do a lot of events with times like last year. I went to a little morning practices, I skipped at least twice a week, that’s kind of an issue. I went to all the morning practices in April.
AS: When you look back on your career at Crescenta Valley, what would you say is the first thing that comes to your mind?
YS: Junior year, after we touched this last season. It’s still on Youtube; I think that was the best moment. I think after that, my freshman year when I won my first [CIF] event, and sophomore year when we broke the [200-yard medley] relay record. We never thought we were going to break it by two or three seconds and we actually did. Those three were the best. My regret moment was this year.
AS: Would you say remember the good over the bad, or is it even?
YS: The good over the bad. It’s been good the last four years. It was only this year I was kind of mad. Sophomore year we got third, but we tried our best and missed second by one point. I think that was kind of a regret. Freshman year was good, but I think looking back there were three good years out of four years, so that’s not bad.
AS: Do you have a favorite memory from this past season?
YS: I would say the [200-yard medley] relay of CIF where we broke our record with Louis, that’s very impressive. I think that was the brightest highlight of my senior year.
AS: How would you say your career at CV impacted your love of swimming?
YS: It’s different, a high school meet and club meet is way different. High school meets are more fun and kind of relaxed, except for like CIF and league. Club swimming is always focused, there’s no playing around, there’s no easy swim meet. You always have to be focused and always have to swim fast. The last three or four years at CV I really loved swimming because I got more friends and I swam different events. I realized that swimming is fun, and swimming makes me more friends than not doing anything. That made me love swimming.
AS: What is it you’ve learned these past four years at CV?
YS: What I learned was leadership. When I came freshman year I was the fastest one and everyone was looking up to me, even the seniors, but I couldn’t say anything because I was a freshman. Junior year, I was totally able to focus and do it. I had people follow me and I saw leadership was important. Most importantly was helping other people, that was the main thing. It worked out in the end and we were all happy.
AS: I know originally you intended on going to the University of Florida, but you switched to the Naval Academy. Tell me about that decision, what made you change your mind there?
YS: Florida is a great place. I really liked Florida, the teammates, coaches and program is great and the school is great, too. When I went there I loved that place and I was really happy to choose that school. Then two months after I signed it, my mom’s dream was for her son to go to the Naval Academy, so I wanted to make her wish. I really liked the Naval Academy, too, because that was my first choice the last four years. Since eighth grade I wanted to become an officer. Those two schools are great, but most importantly I changed it because I really liked the Naval Academy and my mom had wanted me to go.
AS: When was it that you changed your mind to the Navy?
YS: April Fool’s Day was the [press] release day, but I was thinking about it all March since I signed in December. I was thinking all March and kind of stressing out. I was thinking about what was going to happen after school and I kept thinking about the Naval Academy. It seemed like I had the best future there.
AS: Can you tell me what your goals are for swimming beyond CV, beyond high school?
YS: I am going to swim prep school, another high school year, and I think I can get some records. I am going to do cross-country and track and field, too. With the Naval Academy, I want to make NCAA and try to win. I am going to swim all four years in NCAA and another Olympic Trials are coming up for 2016, along with University Games, the World Championship Trials and World Military Games.
AS: Is making the Olympic team your ultimate goal for swimming?
YS: Yes, it is. I think that’s the most important thing, the Olympics, but it’s going to be a big challenge. If I make it I’ll be happy, but since I’ll be at the Naval Academy I think that’s kind of off from the goal. If I would have chose Florida I would focus on the Olympics and my swimming, but the Naval Academy you have to do more military stuff. I am still going to train hard and try to make it to the Olympic team.
AS: How is it that you want people to remember you from your time at Crescenta Valley?
YS: I want people to remember me for my swimming and as a friend, not like a hard person to come up to and say hi. I don’t want to be remembered that way. I want to be remembered for great friendship. My name is going to be up in the weight room hopefully, so they’re going to remember me. I think people will remember me for swimming most importantly, but hopefully friendship, too.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun