Moments before Gunther Cassell swam the 100-yard breaststroke at the state championship meet earlier this month, his father Geoff whispered to him.
"I just said, 'Go get 'em, do the best you can,' '' Geoff Cassell said. "I wanted to keep it short.''
But those few words gave Gunther a little extra motivation to put forth a great performance.
"His support is very important to me, it's what I need,'' Gunther said. "He fills me with confidence like no one else can.''
The Huntington sophomore stepped up to the blocks with an aura of self-assurance; after all, he was the defending state champion. Gunther proceeded to win his second straight state public and federation championship in grand fashion, finishing the race in 56.24 seconds to set a state record. The previous record was 56.48 by Stanley Wong of Tappan Zee in 2011.
"I was not expecting to break the state record, I was honestly just looking for a win,'' Gunther said. "I was astounded, it was mind-blowing. Just the emotion that's been put into everything I do and to have it all pay off was so great. It was such a great feeling.''
"It was incredible to watch him do that,'' Geoff said. "To set the state record as a sophomore, to go that fast, it was pretty amazing. It was definitely one of my prouder moments on this earth.''
After the race Gunther sought out his father, who was right there waiting for him and the two shared an embrace. It was a moment frozen in time, a moment neither of them would forget.
"It was such an emotional moment,'' Gunther said. "We were crying. It was so great to break the state record with him watching.''
Said Geoff: "It was amazing. It's a moment any parent in any sport would want to share with their child.''
Geoff was a state swim champion at West Islip, winning the 50- and 100-yard freestyles in his senior year (1981). Gunther has already matched his father, and he still has two years left in his high school career.
"He said last year, 'Dad, if I win all four years, I'm the king,' '' Geoff said. "He already has two and he has two more years to go, so the odds are in his favor.''
And Geoff will be there, filling his son with confidence before every race and waiting to embrace him afterwards.
"He's like my permanent coach,'' Gunther said. "He's always cheering for me no matter what and whenever I don't do well he's always there to cheer me up. I know he's proud of me, and I'm proud to be his son.''