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Summer helped Huntington's Cassell excel in winter

Huntington's Gunther Cassell celebrates his win in the

Huntington's Gunther Cassell celebrates his win in the finals of the 100 yard breaststroke. (March 2, 2013) (Credit: Adrian Kraus)

For Huntington sophomore Gunther Cassell, winning a state championship in the 100-yard breaststroke as a freshman wasn’t enough. So for the first time, he trained over the summer with hopes of defending his state title.

“After he won states last year, he decided he was going to put more time into focusing on the breaststroke,” Huntington coach Gil Smith said. “He put in a good summer and put in more time than he ever has.”

It paid off.

Cassell won his second straight state public school and Federation championship in the 100-breaststroke, finishing the race in 56.24 seconds to set a new state record. The win earned Cassell Newsday’s Long Island Swimmer of the Year honors.

“I didn’t think I would get to this point, but I knew I could be great,” Cassell said. “When I won last year, I said to myself, ‘Look at how far I’ve come.’ I knew if I kept going with this great performance level and increased the amount of training I do then I would continue to improve.”

Cassell also won the breaststroke at the Suffolk championships in 57.80 seconds.

Cassell said that last year’s state championship win made him focus on mastering the breaststroke.

“I realized that I had something great and if I put my mind to it and keep training harder and harder, I could continue to draw more time,” he said.

So Cassell and Smith would get up early and work on his technique, strength and conditioning.

“It was just his work ethic, in previous summers he never swam,” Smith said. “That was the key, in swimming you have to put in more time than the other guys.”

Smith said he and Cassell will be working to improve again this summer.

“What happens this summer will determine what he does next year,” Smith said. “I’ll be with him again this summer for his training. He has to continue to put the work in.”

It will be necessary, as Cassell has set lofty goals for his high school career.

“I would definitely want to go for a full sweep and be a four-time state champion and four-time all-American,” Cassell said. “That would be unreal.”