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Stuart steps up to lead Tonawanda High School swim team

TONAWANDA - Jimmy Stuart knew a lot more would be on his shoulders this season when he walked into the Liebinger Pool at Tonawanda High School. Stuart, a senior, was named co-captain of a young and rebuilding Warriors swim team.

He knew expectations to be a good leader were just as high, if not higher, then the pressure to perform in the water.

But Stuart is ok with that. Because he knows, whether it’s school, work or whatever comes his way, life is about facing challenges.

“It’s just a brand new kind of experience,” Stuart said after a recent practice.

Growing up in the Warriors system, Stuart has been that perfect support player.

He’s always found a way to come through for his team in his events but in the previous three seasons of varsity he didn’t have to worry about the responsibility of command.

“It’s different. I’m not used to it, but I feel like I’ve been here long enough. I’ve been here the longest, but that’s besides the point,” Stuart said. “I feel like I have to lead the guys. Show them the ropes if I have to, encourage them and make sure they’re trying their best. I don’t find it stressful, I find it encouraging. I feel like I have a position to fill. Since I’m the captain I feel like I have to be the guy all the swimmers look up to.”

Knowing what the make up of the team would be coming into the 2012-13 season, Stuart said he had plenty of time to think about how he would handle the role of leadership and how it could benefit everyone.

Now in his fourth season of varsity Stuart, and junior Jordan Hughes are serving as co-captains. The Warriors are not only young, their numbers-just 11 swimmers - are low. Which means the odds of winning head-to-head meets aren’t very good. Stuart does his best to help everyone keep a healthy, competitive edge so they remember that even if they lose matches they still can improve personal best times and strive to qualify for sectionals.

Stuart himself has already qualified in the 50 as well as the 200 free style rely and 200 medley relay with partners, Patrick and Andrew Ball and Kyle Niemiec.

Interestingly enough coach Tim Harroun says that everyone maintaining their individual competitive fire hasn’t been an issue. In fact if anything sometimes guys might get a bit too amped up swimming against each other. When that happens Stuart serves as a perfect voice of reason that reminds the Warriors it’s ok to push each other to be better, but at the end of the day we’re still as one.

“I think he knows when to pull the plug on certain situations that I fuel and that’s why I rely on him a little bit more as captain,” Harroun said. “I’ll always push those (teammate) rivalries because I always want the best out of them, honestly. He’ll let them know ok guys you’re going a little bit too far. That’s why I picked the two captains, because they are my counter balance.

They can represent the team at times when I’m saying go, go, go! Those two people can be the ones to say ok coach you’re pushing a little too hard.”

Stuart’s words remind everyone, yes, we always want to be out best. But at the end of the day we’re still family and we stick together no matter what.

“There’s always going to be like maybe a little argument,” Stuart said. “But in the end everybody cares for each other and supports each other. There’s never really a dying hatred for somebody. It’s always just oh you sort of got on my nerves, but you look past it five minutes later.”

Still at the top of his game, Stuart said that when it comes to being a captain one of the most demanding roles is balancing the time it takes to focus on his events while still being mindful to help and encourage others. Stuart added that’s where Hughes is invaluable as a co-captain. Stuart knows if anyone needs advice while he is preparing for an event, they can go to Hughes for help.

“It’s hard to focus on everybody then also focus on myself,” Stuart confessed. “Then there are those occasional sets where I’m kind of isolated by myself, pushing myself my hardest. That’s when Jordan comes in and he’s supporting them.”
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