Nick Shopis knows all about surprising finishes.
Last season, the Chaminade swimmer -- who had only the sixth-fastest time in the preliminary round -- won the 100-yard freestyle final in 45.45 seconds at the state boys swimming championships last March.
"My Mom [Elena] always tells me, ‘Even you were in lane 8 and came out of nowhere to win [a state title last season]," he said. "Someone can always beat you. You can’t ever think you’re better than everyone."
Interestingly, the Flyers senior is better than everyone else in the state in the 50-yard freestyle this season.
Newsday’s Athlete of the Week owns New York’s top qualifying time in the 50 free (21.32) just ahead of Scarsdale’s Justin DiSanto (21.33). He’s tied with DiSanto for the second-fastest time in the 100 free (46.73).
Not too shabby for a swimmer who came into his own as a sophomore.
"Growing up, I didn’t get this good until 10th grade," said the Seaford resident. "In high school I kind of came out of nowhere. Even on my club team [LI Aquatic Club], I wasn’t swimming with the highest group until last year."
So what’s made the difference for Shopis?
"He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever had," said Flyers 22nd-year coach Angelo Pellicone. "There’s no shortcuts in anything, especially swimming, and he puts the work in and he does it every day. He’s consistent and he doesn’t miss practice ever."
Shopis swims with Chaminade during the high-school season, and year-round with his swim club except for a two-week break in August. That means practicing Monday through Saturday once a day, but also two days a week with a morning practice before school (where he holds a 97 average). His only off day is Sunday.
A "normal" day for Shopis could include 3,000-to-4,000 yards of swimming before school (which is 8 a.m.-to-3 p.m.). Then he has another practice in the afternoon until 6 p.m. (5,000-to-7,000 more yards). He gets home around 7 p.m.. He eats dinner and does homework until 10 p.m. Shopis gives himself "an hour break" before going to sleep around 11 p.m.
"There’s no secret that usually the guys who work the hardest are the ones that have success," Pellicone said, "and he’s as good of an example as any."
Shopis won’t have the opportunity to defend his 100-free title, since all winter championships have been canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Shopis still has the CHSAA championships (Feb. 20-21).
"Everyone wants to beat you," said Shopis, who will swim at Bucknell and major in mechanical engineering. "That gets me hyped, because I want to beat them, too."
No surprise there.