HS SWIMMING: Kawash Conquering Odds In Pursuit Of Success
There’s long been a running joke at Lakeland Junior-Senior High School where incoming seventh graders are told to take the elevator in the gym to get to the pool that’s located on the roof of the building. Thing is, there’s no elevator There’s no pool, either. That didn’t discourage Peter Kawash. “I heard that joke and I was warned about it in advance,” Kawash said. The Lakeland sophomore stuck with the sport he took up at the youth level, found a home with the Valley View varsity program, and developed into one of the top swimmers in the Lackawanna League. This weekend, he will try to return to the medal stand at the District 2 Class 2A Championships at the Wyoming Valley Catholic Youth Center. “I have stuck with swimming, thanks to encouragement from my family, coaches and teammates. I love it,” Kawash said. A little more than six years ago, Kawash found himself entranced in the 2012 Summer Olympics held in London, England. Michael Phelps captivated the country by winning four gold and two silver medals. He also landed a fan in Kawash. From that summer, he took the plunge and joined the Valley View Barra-Cougars. Kawash had some early success and became committed and passionate about the sport. He moved on to join the Scranton Sea Knights where he teamed with Aidan Drouse and Nick Drouse, and fellow Lakeland student Giovanni Spataro to set several age-group records on relay teams. His name still appears on the big board at the Scranton High School natatorium. “My first couple of years, I was just gaining my legs and getting a feel of where I fit in with swimming,” Kawash said. “I did well, but my last two years in age-group really helped me know that I had a future in the sport.” That future, though, meant competing without a team or a facility at his home school. When the pool at Valley View closed, his commitment faced even more daunting odds. He needed to coordinate a practice schedule with the Cougars at both the Carbondale YMCA and West Scranton Intermediate School. Through all the obstacles, Kawash maintained his focus, and his drive to succeed continued to motivate him. “It’s been difficult,” Kawash said. “All of the kids at Valley View are all passionate about the sport. We all just keep telling ourselves that things could always be worse.” Last season, as a freshman, Kawash earned All-Region honors. He had a couple of fourth-place finishes at the Les Richards Championships in the 200-yard freestyle in 1 minute, 55.23 seconds and in the 100 backstroke in 59.56. At his first district meet, he claimed a fourth-place medal in the 100 backstroke in 58.31) and a fifth-place medal in the 200 freestyle in 1:54.34. That led him to become even more dedicated as he took on a much more challenging summer schedule. “That was awesome,” Kawash said. “I wasn’t expecting that kind of success. I stayed humble and really went to work in the summer and leading up to the regular season.” Kawash joined the Greater Scranton YMCA Stingrays. He, along with his teammates, practiced twice a day, and he joined a Crossfit program that developed his strength. “Ever since last year Peter has had the goal of making states,” Valley View swim coach Rick Evans said. “He worked very hard over the summer with the Greater Scranton YMCA and came into the season in amazing shape.” During the regular season, because he swims for Lakeland, Kawash is considered an exhibition competitor. His times are never officially recorded in the results and he races in anonymity. That is until championship time. At the Les Richards, Kawash went head-to-head with two-time Times-Tribune Swimmer of the Year Aidan Drouse. The 16-year-old finished second in the 100 backstroke with a personal-best time of 55.66 seconds and third in the 100 freestyle in 56.37. His effort in the 100 back earned him the No. 1 seed for the District 2 Class 2A Championships. “It’s fun to fly under the radar,” Kawash said. “I just swim my races and I have been getting better. It’s been fun pushing myself to get where I want to be. “That race in the backstroke definitely put a smile on my face. But, this weekend I just have to swim my own race and do what I have been doing all season. I have a goal to swim in college, so that is ultimately what I am working toward.” Contact the writer: email@example.com; 570-348-9125; @sportsTT on Twitter If you go ■ What: District 2 Swimming Championships. ■ When: Friday and Saturday. Class 2A, 11 a.m.; Class 3A, 5 p.m. ■ Where: Wyoming Valley Catholic Youth Center. Notable: Dallas (Class 2A) and Delaware Valley (Class 3A) won both boys and girls team titles last season.