Smithtown's John Holler races in the bonus heat of the...

Smithtown's John Holler races in the bonus heat of the 100-yard breaststroke at state public schools championships on March 5, 2022. Credit: Bridget Fetsko

Reading, writing and spelling provided such a challenge. John Holler learned why in elementary school.

“When I was in third grade, I was diagnosed with a learning disability known as dyslexia,” he said.

But Holler had been swimming with the Hauppauge Athletic Association since he was 6, and then in eighth grade, he joined Smithtown’s combined varsity boys swim team.

His all-in commitment to the sport since then has led to contentment and success — not just in the pool.

“Through swim, it was more of like I had the chance to show what I am good at, because it’s not like they’re asking me to read a passage out loud or to spell something,” said Holler, a Smithtown East senior from Nesconset. “… You’re just looking at a clock. You’re going against your time.

“… As I’ve gone through high school, through the support of my team, my family, teachers, I’ve been able to do way far beyond what I thought I was ever capable in academics and in swim. And I’m truly grateful for it.”

The swimming has been going exceptionally well for Newsday’s Athlete of the Week.

Holler helped Smithtown-Hauppauge, in its first season as a combined team, win the Suffolk League I championship Wednesday at Hauppauge. He claimed the 200-yard IM and 100 breaststroke, contributed to the 200 medley relay’s victory and swam the anchor leg of a crucial 200 freestyle relay and overtook the leader to touch first.

He had already pulled off just an awesome achievement. Holler qualified in all eight individual swimming events for the state public school championships on March 3-4 at Ithaca College. His coach, Ray Willie, said no other swimmer in the state has done that this season.

“I’ve got to say I’ve been coaching now since 1993 in some capacity,” Willie said. “I’ve never seen it happen in one season.”

“It’s surreal to me,” said Holler, a member of all three relays that qualified, too. “… During the course of (my junior) year, I made all the individual events except for one.”

That was the 100 backstroke. So he was motivated to accomplish the unique feat, what he called the “ultimate fun fact.”

But the Catholic University commit and two-year captain will just swim in two individual events, the 200 IM and the 100 breaststroke or 100 freestyle, in his bid for a first state title.

First, he will chase his first county titles on Feb. 11 at Stony Brook. Individually, he will swim the 200 IM and the 100 breaststroke. Holler, the owner of 10 individual records with the Smithtown and Smithtown-Hauppauge programs, is ranked first in both.

“He really makes it a pleasure to coach,” Willie said. “I’m really going to miss him next year when he leaves.”

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