If you want to learn your craft well, you may as well learn it from the best in the world.Tyler Gomez, a junior swimmer at Jay M. Robinson, attended last summer’s U.S. Olympic Trials with some of his teammates from SwimMAC Carolina, his year-round swim program.Observing and taking notes on superstars such as Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte allowed Gomez to critique his own techniques and make some changes to trim his times in the pool.Watching Phelps swim the butterfly was something Gomez locked in on at the Olympic Trials. The way the now 18-time Olympic gold medalist kept his chin on the water during his strokes is what made the greatest impression on Gomez.“It definitely has made a difference in how I swim,” Gomez said. “Watching Michael Phelps do butterfly, watching his head, watching all the other guys … I’m applying that to my strokes.“It has made me stay longer in the water. I’m keeping my head lower. I have a stronger kick. It has made my times drop a little bit.”Inspired by last year’s state meet results, and additionally by his summertime brush with greatness, Gomez is poised to make this year’s state meet even more special. Last year, he had top-eight finishes in two individual events and in two relays at the N.C. 3A finals.Gomez started this year by winning every race he has started. That includes races with the 400-yard freestyle and 200-yard medley relay teams.Joined by teammates Griffin Fiedler and Ryan Buddendeck, both seniors, and junior Ben Massius, the 400-freestyle relay has a legitimate shot at this year’s 3A state championship. The team placed second at last year’s state meet, finishing behind only Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons.Because the Bulldogs return all four swimmers and Cardinal Gibbons lost some of theirs to graduation, Robinson may be the odds on favorite to stand atop the podium.“They bonded really well as a team,” Robinson coach Beverly Kopelic said. “But all four are really driven individually. None of them want to be the one that holds the rest of them back. There’s that little bit of competition that pushes them.”With Gomez, then a sophomore, swimming his specialty stroke, butterfly, the Bulldogs placed fifth in the 200-yard medley relay at states. Individually, Gomez was fourth in the 100 butterfly, an event won by Fiedler.Though he is an established member of the squad now, Gomez had a lot to prove when he arrived at Robinson as a freshman.Upperclassmen tried to discourage Gomez, who admits he spun his arms instead of being truer to the butterfly stroke, by telling him that freshmen didn’t make the school’s “A team” relays. That only fueled Gomez’ desire to prove them wrong. It took Kopelic only one meet to announce that Gomez would be on the team’s top relay teams.“He has the heart of a lion,” Kopelic said. “He probably weighed 97 pounds as a freshman. He swam beyond what his body should have been able to do at that point.“But he never let his upper class teammates down. They were never going to say that he was the reason that they didn’t achieve what they could have achieved.”The Gomez name has made its mark on the Robinson swim team in recent years. Tyler’s older sister, Jessica, was a team captain as a senior last year. His twin sister, Taylor, has also been with the Bulldogs for three years.
Tuesday, Jan. 08, 2013
Watching Olympians helps Jay M. Robinson junior make bigger splash
Jay M. Robinson junior swimmer Tyler Gomez hopes to improve upon last year's top-eight finishes at the 3A state meet. COURTESY OF ROBINSON SWIM TEAM