Year-round high school swimmers typically train closely with their club coach and have limited interaction with their school’s coach. They come and go, arriving to join their high school teammates on meet days at the pool.
But that description doesn’t fit Broughton senior Jack Messenger, who is defending his N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A state title in the 100 freestyle Friday at the Triangle Aquatic Center in Cary.
Messenger trains diligently with his Marlins of Raleigh club coach, Brett Buzek, but he also embraces the high school experience with Broughton veteran coach Richard Dubois and his Capitals teammates.
At the recent Cap-8 Conference swimming championships that had Broughton flirting with the lead for the team title, Messenger said, “We’d really like to win it for our coach. He’s retiring, and it would be a great sendoff for him.”
Enloe ended up overcoming the field for the title, but that didn’t stop Messenger and his 400 freestyle relay teammates from searching for another method. In Saturday’s NCHSAA 4A East Regional, senior Richard Soltis, senior Smith Moran, sophomore David Washburn and Messenger at anchor set a school record time of 3 minutes, 17.01 seconds to place fourth and advance to the state meet.
“He’s been teaching and coaching at Broughton a long time,” Messenger said. “When he said he was retiring, we wanted to do really well for him these last few meets.”
But something else Messenger did “really well” that he failed to mention was lowering his 50 freestyle school record to 20.57 to win the 4A East Region title. He hopes to add a 50 state championship to the 100 state title he won a year ago with a school record 45.45.
“Jack is one of the most enthusiastic kids I’ve ever coached,” Dubois said. “Some year-round swimmers don’t want anything to do with their high school coach, but Jack is always talking with me and checking his times. He cheers for all the other athletes. He has always been part of the team.”
Messenger, who said he is leaning toward committing to UNC-Wilmington, competed in last year’s state meet in the 100 free and 100 breast but didn’t make the 100 breast state finals.
“I thought if I can win the 100 free I can win the 50 free,” Messenger said. “I focused all my training on the freestyle events.”
Another goal this year was meeting the automatic All-America standards. His 20.57 in the 4A East Region 50 beat the 20.69 mark. His best of 45.57 to win the 4A East Region 100 free is good for All-America consideration, but needs to drop to 45.14 for automatic inclusion.
Dubois said his experience with Messenger leading the Capitals has made these last few practices and meets emotional for him, admitting he “teared up” last week driving from school to practice at the Pullen Park pool. He is retiring after 30 years of teaching and the past 13 coaching.
“I like that so many kids have improved this year and made our team competitive,” Dubois said. “But what I also like about this team is they get along so well. We’ve always had team dinners, but in the past it might be as few as five or six kids showing up. This year we’ve had as many as 58 of the 60 kids. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Messenger is a sprinter in the water, but he has been there with Dubois and the Capitals the length of the pool to one final high school meet in 2017.