Whether it's an inspirational coach, a competitive rival or a personal confidant, many athletes have someone else that provides the push they might need to succeed.
Swimmer Griffin Fiedler finds all that person when he looks in the mirror.
The Jay M .Robinson junior said people tell him he puts too much pressure on himself. "But if I don't," Fiedler said, "I don't think I'll do as well."
Over three years, Fiedler has established himself as one of the best swimmers in the state for both the Bulldogs and NOMAD, his year-round swim club program.
This high school season, he hasn't lost a race in Robinson's first four meets. Competing against seven teams, Fiedler had posted career-best times in the 50-, 100- and 200-yard freestyle races, the 200 individual medley, the 100 backstroke and the 100 butterfly.
"He has a very competitive nature, but it's internally focused," said Robinson coach Beverly Kopelic. "If he's not doing as well as he thinks he should in a certain event, he'll say, 'Put me back in that event.' But it s not like he says, 'I need to beat swimmer X.' "
In what he considers his two best events - the 100 butterfly and 200 freestyle - Fiedler set personal bests of 51.9 seconds and 1:43 respectively in a Blue Ridge Swim League meet for NOMAD.
Fiedler had been in a year-round swim program since seventh grade. But he credits his move to NOMAD a couple of years later with propelling him into the state's elite.
Some of his best moments in the Blue Ridge Swim League have been finishing second in total points, in large fields of swimmers, at meets in March and December. In a home meet three weeks ago, he took first place in each of three individual events: the 200 butterfly, the 200 backstroke and the 100 butterfly.
"When I'm swimming, I typically don't think. I just go," said Fiedler. "During practice, I think about technique, what I need to do better."
His improved times have Fiedler hoping he can win a high school state championship next month. He came close last year, finishing third at the 3A state meet in the 100 butterfly.
Fiedler began to make his mark at Robinson as early as his freshman year. After getting promoted to the "A" relay team in the middle of the season, Fiedler swam the backstroke leg on a team that finished second in the 200 medley relay at the 3A state meet.
At the same meet, his 400 freestyle relay placed fourth. Both relay teams won their events at the regional meet.
The relay teams defended their regional titles in 2011. At the state championships, Fiedler, Chad Heiser, Tyler Gomez and C.J. Herron finished fourth. Except for Ryan Buddenbeck swimming in place of Herron, the same group finished third in the 400 free relay.
"I was really happy, but there were mixed emotions," said Fiedler. "We didn't win, so I was a little sad about that. But I was proud of my team, how well we've done, and was happy to be with a bunch of good kids that love the sport as much as I do."
Besides his third-place finish in the 200 butterfly, Fiedler also earned seventh place in the 100 backstroke at the state meet.
He hopes that experience will help in the rest of his season for the Bulldogs.
Joe Habina is a freelance writer for Cabarrus News. Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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