It is the job of every grandmother to make their grandchildren feel special. OK, maybe more a labor of love than a job.
But in the case of Notre Dame High School senior Jimmy Drahuschak, both his grams showed greater insight than that of just coddling their little grandson.
“I first remember starting swimming around eight,” Drahuschak recalled. “We had a pool in my backyard. My brother did a few laps and I said ‘Wow, let me try.’ I did some and showed off in front of both my grandmothers. They said ‘Wow, you should really try out for the swim team.’”
Naturally, he believed everything his grandmas said, and did just that.
“Of course,” the Bordentown resident said with a laugh. “I was young. But from there I guess it just kind of sparked.”
Score one for Catherine Drahuschak and Barbara Slipp, whose keen insights have led to a successful swimming career for their grandson. Despite not swimming the 200 and 500 meters until his sophomore year, Drahuschak had enough talent to finish in the Top 12 in both events at last year’s Mercer County Tournament Championships. He is being counted on as a key distance swimmer for the two-time defending county-champion Irish this season.
“He’s one of our go-to guys in those events, no question about that; and it fits him,” ND coach Henry DeSandre said. “He’s tall, he’s got great ability to find the right kind of water. His pace is good and his turns and his walls are just absolutely where we want to see from him and where we want him to be at this point in his training. It’s only gonna progress.
We set some goals, we raised the bar this year when we were meeting, and he wants to attack that bar.”
The “bar”; i.e. the times, is what Notre Dame swimmers concern themselves with. They don’t set goals of finishing in a certain spot at a certain race.
“We’re more concerned about the bar,” DeSandre said. “We’ll let the stopwatch take care of where we place at counties.”
Drahuschak’s bar for the 200 is 1:50 after going 1:55 last year. DeSandre said “a 4:55 would be a great goal for him in the 500” after going 5:20 last season.
The swimmer was not about to argue.
“If that’s his goal, that’s my goal,” Drahuschak said.
Drahuschak is somewhat of a rarity for ND, which is loaded with club swimmers. Drahuschak began swimming for the YMCA Tornadoes of Burlington. He eventually joined the high-level South Jersey Aquatic Club in fifth grade and lasted there for four years. But when SJAC moved its home base to Voorhees, the commute was too far,
and Drahuschak returned to the YMCA.
“I’m not really that upset that I don’t do club anymore,” he said. “I just really value high school now and I think it’s better because I get to go to school with these people too.”
When he arrived at Notre Dame, he was experienced in every stroke and appeared a natural for the 200 Individual Medley. That lasted until midway through his 10th-grade season.
“He came in with a little year-round swimming experience and just developed from there,” DeSandre said. “We just looked at him in the IM fashion, and during his sophomore year we saw he had a lot of distance qualities in him. That’s what we pursued. He blossomed out last year, did very well in the two and the five. We went to him constantly, even with some big talent on our club. He got right up there, trained well.”
Drahuschak took one for the team, but did not immediately celebrate the switch after doing IM all his life.
“I mean, who wants to swim a 500?” he said. “But yeah, I got used to it. It was near the end of the year and they needed somebody in there, and I guess I did good at it.”
Did he think it was a one-shot deal?
“I was hoping,” he said with a grin. “But here I am. It was a good feeling last year though, finishing in the Top 12 in both. That’s pretty good.”
It didn’t come easy. In the IM, a swimmer is doing four different strokes at a quicker pace, which keeps things interesting as opposed to doing the same stroke over and over again.
“IM is like two laps of one thing, and then boom, just two more laps of another,” Drahuschak said. “You try to set goals for yourself, or at least that’s what I did – just get through this stroke, and boom, there will be two or three more. But for freestyle it is kind of different because you’re just doing the same thing all the time. The training is different. You’re practicing your breathing techniques. It was a challenge. Usually I kind of look to the people around me to keep me going.”
One of those guys is junior Andrew Kite, who is ND’s top distance man.
“We push each other, but he pushes me more than I push him,” Drahuschak said.
Apparently, that assessment is a bit too modest.
“That may be for right now,” Kite said in the season’s first week. “But he doesn’t swim club and doesn’t have any spring season. He’s just getting ready now and he’ll definitely get better and start pushing me.
He’s always somebody good to go to when you want to talk about things. He understands it.”
Whatever reluctance Drahuschak felt toward distance has long disappeared, as he has become a solid role model in that event.
“He’s got a good work ethic, he’s a good team player,” DeSandre said. “He’s one of our leaders, and he’s a pleasure to coach. I’m very comfortable with his time right now (in early December). Our real season starts at the end of January. That’s when you’ll really see him start blossoming out.”
Drahuschak is looking to attend college next year and has his eye on Stockton. In the summer, he will continue to serve as a lifeguard for American Pool.
“That job can be pretty boring,” he said. “But hey, you’re getting paid to just sit there.”
And it involves swimming, which has become his passion.
“I think,” Drahuschak said, “that it’s an extremely good lifestyle.”
Of course it is. Would a guy’s grandmothers ever steer him wrong?