Season going swimmingly for Wooster High coach, son

Season going swimmingly for Wooster High coach, son
Tom Rife

Wooster High senior swimmer Thomas Matthew will hit the water collegiately for Cincinnati.

                        

He rules the roost in a swimming facility that has his mother’s name emblazoned along one wall in bright-blue letters. No pressure there for Thomas Matthew, right?

That same woman just happens to be the head coach of his favorite swim team. No pressure there either, right?

One more thing: The 17-year-old Wooster High senior is the third and last in a trio of siblings who have performed well beyond the norm in the pool. Again, no pressure.

“Even if he wasn’t a great swimmer, I’d love him just the same,” Generals swim taskmaster Chris Matthew said following the recent North East Aquatics Conference championship meet at the YMCA of Wooster Ellen Shapiro Natatorium, site of the Chris Matthew Aquatics Center.

The eight-team gathering spotlighted both boys and girls standouts, serving as the ideal tune-up for the Ohio Cardinal Conference Championships on Jan. 11 at WHS.

“She just tells me to keep a level head and to go out there and do everything she’s taught me,” Thomas Matthew said of his mother and coach. “It’s definitely more mental than physical because I’ve been in a position before where my mental aspect has gotten the best of me, and it’s shown in my times. She’s really helped me to get out there and leave everything else out of my head and not be nervous at all.”

With 26 years of experience in the record books, Chris Matthew fully understands athletes — her own or the countless others she has influenced — have individual needs both delicate and demanding. She has worked as the coach of the Generals girls and boys teams, if not separately, then at the same time as she does presently.

“I just love swimming. I love it. I love every day. These kids keep me young, and this team is probably the best I’ve ever had in terms of training,” Chris Matthew said. “We just completed two weeks of long-course training, and there were no complaints. I had almost 100 percent attendance every day.”

While the years have gone by quickly and this is Thomas Matthew’s last season of competing for the Generals, Mom has the pleasure of knowing she has at least four more years to watch her two-time All-Ohio son do his magic. Thomas has committed to swim at the University of Cincinnati once his prep accomplishments are complete.

The freestyler’s goals at WHS still include achieving All-American honors in two events. He believes his best opportunities to post such times are in the 100- and 200-yard freestyle distances.

At Saturday’s NEAC competition, he won the 200 and 500 freestyle finals with respective times of 1:42.83 and 4:47.77. He came up just shy of school records in both. He also swam the final legs in helping his 200 freestyle relay team take first place and 400 freestyle relay unit earn a runner-up finish.

In the meet’s final team standings, Wooster’s girls, led by sophomores Gracie Chelf and Brook Balas and senior Maddy Murphy, placed second overall to Akron Firestone. Boardman High was third. The Generals boys team finished third overall behind winner Boardman and runner-up Firestone.

Thomas Matthew swam personal bests in his two individual events, shaving nearly three seconds off his previous bests in both tests. Such times let Matthew and his mother look ahead to February with optimism.

“I was really excited and ready coming into the meet because I knew the preparation we had,” Thomas Matthew said. “The last two weeks we’ve been swimming super hard. I knew that we would swim really fast, and I had total faith in the team that we would do great today.”

In the upcoming OCC meet, he said the team to beat will be two-time defending champion Lexington High.

Chris Matthew, meanwhile, said her devotion to swimming is a life-long pursuit. She was humbled to have her name added to the renovated local venue in the pool’s 25th year of operation a year ago.

“I want to be a lap swimmer here when I’m 95,” she said. “I care about the pool as a public swimmer, as a summer coach, as a high school coach, and for the Y to have a great facility like this one. We love this community. We want to give back to Wooster.”


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