It’s been six years in the making and now Syosset’s Tamir Zitelny has the opportunity to end his varsity swimming tenure the way any athlete would want to.
As a state champion.
“To be quite honest, I don’t see a better way of ending my high school swimming career,” Zitelny said. “This will be my third year going to the state meet and just to see the progression of how I’ve been doing each year, it’s really awesome to see my growth in the sport.”
The senior has qualified for states in the 200 IM, 100 back and 100 fly. He says his best event is the 100 back and thinks he has a chance at winning that state championship. Zitelny finished ninth in the 100 back and fly last year at states after finishing first in Nassau County in back and second in fly.
Zitelny began swimming at 6 years old and his brother, Edan, got him to swim competitively. He made the Syosset varsity in seventh grade. Zitelny and his brother, who is three years older, will reunite and swim at Brandeis University — a Division III school outside of Boston — next fall.
But for now, he’s looking to end his time at Syosset on a strong note. After his brother graduated, Zitelny became a vocal leader of the team. This wasn’t necessarily a natural role for him.
“It really started with myself kinda unsure,” Zitelny said. “As a seventh grader, it was kinda frightening to be honest, but now six years later it’s such an incredible difference.”
The difference has come through extra dedication to the sport and his studies. Zitelny has a 100 grade point average.
“It’s like having a coach in the water,” said Syosset coach Chris Schleider. “He makes the guys around him better.”
The ways he’s influenced his teammates are apparent as Syosset is undefeated (8-0) and has 200 medley and 400 free relay teams close to earning a state qualifying time. The 200 medley team includes Joe Kwak, James Wun and Michael Jiang and the 400 free squad features Kwak, Jiang and Joe LaBianca. Zitelny is a member of both teams.
Zitelny credits the hours he put into perfecting his craft, saying becoming a terrific swimmer is just as much of a mental challenge as a physical one.
“I would say trying to better yourself when it’s not the actual races themselves is probably the most challenging part of the sport,” he said.
Zitelny hopes those hours spent in the pool come to fruition at the state tournament March 5 in Buffalo. Until then, he’s enjoying the end of his final high school season until the opportunity to reunite with his brother in the pool.
Said Zitelny, “To see myself among one of the top swimmers there is truly heartwarming.”