The Hamilton West boys’ swimming team had a star burst on the scene last year when freshman Griffin Hutton made an immediate impact in Mercer County. But another 9th-grader also came on board with Hutton who got a little overshadowed when it came to publicity but is pretty good himself.
Jake Torres was not overlooked by the person who counts the most, however: his coach at Hamilton West, Dan Seeth.
Seeth has said on several occasions that were Hutton on another team, Torres would definitely be the highest-profile Hornet. As it is, the two provide a solid 1-2 punch for a program that equaled its three-meet win total of the past two years by mid-January this season.
Hutton has wiped out the school record in the 400-meter freestyle several times but has swam other events successfully this year in order to let Torres do well in the 400.
“Jake is caught in an interesting situation being on the same team as Griffin,” Seeth said. “I would describe Jake as being a big fish in a small pond. Unfortunately for him, Griffin just happens to be a bigger fish in the same pond. Jake is fortunate that he is on a team with Griffin Hutton and that the two powers can work together to really bring up Hamilton West swimming.
“Jake is unfortunate in the fact that he will be viewed as Hamilton’s number two. That is no fault of either athlete, it’s just how it is. Griffin would most likely be the ‘Big Fish’ in whatever pond he was in. Jake would easily be Hamilton’s big fish without Griffin. As a coach, I’m very pleased to have two big fish with several others growing rapidly as well.”
The good news is, neither one lets their egos get in the way of personal gain. Both have no problems doing whatever events can help the team win.
“They are both great teammates and they are happy to be swimming with each other instead of against each other,” Seeth said. “It makes sense for me to place them in separate events to optimize their point-scoring, which inadvertently keeps them from competing with each other directly. Both athletes want what is best for their team and I couldn’t ask for anything else.”
In other words, Torres doesn’t mind seeing Hutton get the glory since it means both guys are helping Hamilton improve. And as time goes on, Torres will likely get more attention.
“It would nice to be a star, but I am happy I have great teammates like Griffin and the rest of the team,” Torres said. “If we didn’t have all of these phenomenal swimmers and coaches we would not be were we are today as far as wins and all.”
Indeed, Hamilton has a strong class of sophomore swimmers that include Aleks Henson, Matt Maul, John Novak and Mitchell Fechter. Juniors Austin Jenkins, Ed Kitner, Matt Esposito and Nick Walter have also made contributions as the young Hornets show promise.
The leaders, though, are Torres and Hutton, who have developed a relationship since joining the Hornets.
“I feel as if Griffin and I are getting closer,” Torres said. “We went to middle school together but didn’t talk much until we started high school swimming. And because of club swimming, we both don’t stay at the high school practices very long so there’s not much time to work with each other, but I’m sure if we were both to stay for the whole time we would work with each other.”
What makes Torres so unique is his versatility. This year he has done the 200 IM, 200 free, 400-meter/500-yard freestyle and the 100 backstroke.
“He’s been in these events because he does well in them, but also because they are events where his team needs him,” Seeth said. “Often in competitive swimming, you’ll find rigid limitations with events some individuals choose to swim.
“Some swimmers do nothing but freestyle. Others limit themselves—sometimes mentally and other times truly physically—to either sprints or long distances. Jake does not get hung up on any of that. He has a good sprint while also being able to be competitive in distance events as well as non-freestyle events.”
Torres’ flew under the radar early in the year, but was soon being noticed by some pretty impressive people. West Windsor-Plainsboro South coach Anthony Bartolone, who runs one of the county’s top programs, asked Seeth who was in Lane 3 during their dual meet with the Hornets.
“I told him ‘Jake Torres,’” Seeth said. “He said ‘Well, tell him to slow down.’ “I’m sure he will be (on the radar) after counties this year and for years to come if he continues the way he is. Though his IM and backstroke are respectable, I think the 100 and even more so the 200 free will be great events for Jake in his future.”
Torres started splashing around in his grandparents’ pool but didn’t think about competitive swimming until he and his friends started racing in a backyard pool.
“I liked the thrill of moving in the water,” he said. “I did not take to the water right away, it took a lot of hard work.”
Torres began swimming with the Hamilton Aquatics Club at 10, and in his first Silver Meet with HAC, he took third place in the 500 free and also made the state cut. He was also part of a relay team that made it to the county finals.
“I’m still working hard with them every day now,” Torres said.
That is not a hollow statement, according to his coach.
“Jake has plenty of natural talent and ability, but he also has a good work ethic,” Seeth said. “He strives to improve himself and do what is best for his team. Like any swimmer, his natural ability will only take him so far, but he knows that without training hard all year he won’t be able to achieve his potential. After stepping up his training regiment at HAC over the summer and continuing in the fall and winter, he’s been able to produce significant results that he can both measure and be proud of. From my observation, his improvement and success help serve as his motivation.”
During his freshman year of high school, Torres lists beating seniors in races and the steady progress he made as progress. He also enjoyed being part of the whole Hornet experience and a team environment.
“It’s a great team with amazing coaches that provide a lot of support,” he said. “I enjoy high school swimming as opposed to club swimming in a few ways. You’re actually trying to beat the other team rather than just going to win for yourself; you get the support of the team; and because of the suspense of the meets waiting to see the scores and who’s in the lead or who’s losing and by how much.”
Not surprisingly, that is the attitude of a lot of club swimmers when it comes to high school. It’s a little less pressure on the individual, yet gives the individual a sense of striving for a common goal with others.
Because of his status as a club and high school swimmer, it sometimes carries over into his so-called leisure time.
“When I am in at a pool party or just hanging out in my grandparents pool with friends I like to relax,” Jake said, adding with a laugh. “But every now and again I have that one friend that wants to race, and I almost always agree.”
And he almost always wins.