When Andrew Stange gets in the pool, his troubles float away.
“I’ve found swimming has really helped me as a stress reliever,” said the St. Anthony’s swimmer. “You just kind of hop in the water and problems go away. You swim, two hours in and you come out feeling a lot better. You got a good workout in and you’re ready to hop back into homework or whatever it is.”
But those he competes against aren’t so lucky.
Stange, a senior from Smithtown, had the top time in state in the 200-yard freestyle (1 minute, 41.65 seconds) and second best in the 100 free (47.20) through Jan. 10. The Friars are off to a 6-0 start, including a 102-84 victory over rival Chaminade Wednesday in which the team had 15 state qualifying times.
Stange, a key member of St. Anthony’s state championship team last season after transferring from The Stony Brook School, joins the team’s senior captains CJ Arena and Conor Rutigliano as team leaders.
“What I’ve been able to appreciate is the difference between a leadership role and just being on the team,” Stange said. “You don’t realize how big of a role the whole senior class has until you’re actually in it. You have to set a good example for younger guys, obviously, they see how you perform and I think the senior class this year has done really well in swimming well, setting a standard for the younger guys and showing them the ropes and how we swim.”
Stange, headed to Georgetown next fall, said he transferred to St. Anthony’s because he wanted to be at a bigger school with strong academics along with swimming. Coach Dan McBride said he continues to get outstanding reports about Stange from teachers to go along with his talents in the pool, saying Stange is “twice the person he is the swimmer.”
And that’s no light statement as Stange was a member of the Friars’ state champion 200 medley relay and the 400 free relay which placed third in the state last season. He also won the 100 butterfly and placed second in the 200 free in the CHSAA championship meet. McBride credits Stange’s work ethic for his success.
“Beyond his technique, his heart and determination (is key),” McBride said. “He works as hard as he can. He concentrates as much as he can on his workout. He never takes a day off mentally. He never goes through the motions. He’s always looking to perfect his craft.”
Stange, who remembers starting swimming lessons at age 2 and competitive swimming at 7, tried sports such as baseball, soccer and basketball growing up, but swimming quickly became his passion. He enjoys the demand and constant practice necessary to improve in the pool.
He’ll be competing for a major Division I team next season, but Stange isn’t focused on that. He isn’t even thinking about his impressive times he’s posted, saying he wants to improve them before the state meet. And echoing his coach, Stange isn’t rushing ahead to the state championship meet March 3-4 at the Nassau County Aquatic Center at Eisenhower Park.
“If you try to take the whole thing all at once, you’ll get overwhelmed,” Stange said, “but if you do it bit-by-bit, meet-by-meet, swim-by-swim, then you get to really focus and make fine improvements.”
And when Stange’s in the pool, that’s all he’s centered on.