Will Yuchmow.

Will Yuchmow knew club swimming would make him a better swimmer, but he also knew that leaving club would make him a better leader.

The Lawrence High boys’ team is the beneficiary of that decision, as Yuchmow has departed the Pennington Stingrays and will focus solely on high school swimming for the entire season. He was voted team captain along with Kacper Szulc.

“It was mostly due to school in general,” Yuchmow said of his decision. “It was taking up a bit too much of my time, and I really wanted to get connected with my high school team. I chose to do a little with my club team during the off-season, and I would fully commit to high school season just so I could feel more connected with my team. Plus I’ll be able to do my schoolwork and get college applications done and all that stuff.”

Coach Ryan Shive was naturally elated with the decision. Since club is so time consuming and since a swimmer’s commitment must be to club first, it doesn’t give high school coaches a lot of chances to work with their top performers.

“I love being able to work with them when they’re here personally,” Shive said. “I get to know them a lot better. I know where to place them. I have a better idea of who I can put where, who’s gonna step up. I get a better idea of their personality, of how they are in the meet just being able to talk to them, day in and day out; or just to be able to work on the little things and correct some of the habits they pick up along the way. It’s great to see him get back with just us.”

It also exposes the other team members to one of their top guns.

“Absolutely,” Shive said. “I wanted him to be able to lead this team. We talked last year about it, and he started swimming here more. I told him, ‘People are starting to look at you as a leader, and next year you can really be voted into that position,’ and the team picked him and Kacper, another great leader.”

“Will came into the season swinging like he always did,” Shive added. “Every year he just grew and grew to where he’s at today as one of our main leaders. He’s not cocky or abrasive, he’s very straight forward, a straight shooter. He gives forth his best effort.”

Yuchmow’s top events are the 200 free and 100 fly. He finished in the top 12 in both at last year’s Mercer County meet. In the second dual meet this season he finished second to Notre Dame’s Andrew Kite in the 200 and second to Evan Eckels in the fly. Both Irish swimmers made the Mercer A cut (top 6) in those events last year, and Yuchmow swam fast early-season times in both events.

“He had great times in almost everything he did today,” Shive said after the meet. “Even on that last event (the 400 free relay) he swam a fast split. He went for it and wanted to give his best. There’s no off switch, he’s always going his hardest.”

Yuchmow’s goals this year are to reach the A cut finals in his main events. He is hoping for a time of 2:03 in the 200 free and a 1:00.59 in the fly.

“I definitely think that’s possible,” he said.

Yuchmow’s journey to swimming began at age 2 when his mom recommended he get swim lessons.

“I think it was the typical ‘We don’t want you to drown, so learn how to swim,’ kind of thing, Yuchmow said with a grin.

From there a buddy asked him to join a local swim team, which he did. Mom then suggested he make swimming a sport he might try to take serious.

At age 8 he joined a semi-club team and things took off from there. Will began swimming club at Pennington Aquatics, then moved on to the Princeton Tigers, Eastern Express and Pennington Stingrays before stepping away from club.

“I fell in love with the high school team my first year,” Yuchmow said. ‘For sure club swimming made me a better swimmer. I’ve always just enjoyed doing high school a lot more. I like the team atmosphere a lot. Especially with me being captain this year. It’s really good to be the mentor toward the freshmen when they come in here.”

Yuchmow was told of a remark made by Steinert’s Alaina Elliott, who felt that club swimming got so mechanical, that performing for the high school team restored her passion for the sport.

“I completely agree with that; it’s like walking outside (into frigid air) from this (hot) pool,” Yuchmow said. “I think it’s just the pressure of club. It’s all about yourself. It’s all about individual pressure. If you’ve got no motivation, you’re not getting anywhere.

“With this team, everyone kind of relieves some of that pressure, but I guess it brings a new kind of pressure. I guess you can call it team pressure, but it’s a good kind of pressure. It’s like, ‘If I do this, I’m doing it for my team, just not for myself.’ I think it actually makes you go faster.”

When Yuchmow speaks of self-motivation, he knows what he is talking about, because he has it.

“He’s just an amazing swimmer,” Shive said. “Every time he enters the water it’s just everything he’s got. I’ve never seen him pull back for anybody. It doesn’t matter who his opponent is, it’s just always about working on himself; getting best times day in and day out. His work ethic is second to none. The team elected him a captain, so that tells you a lot at how he’s looked at by his peers. He’s a gamer. He’s ready to go.”

The next place he wants to go is college, and he is waiting to hear back from several state schools. He is in the LHS Chemistry Club and plans on majoring in chemistry.

“I’m 100 percent sure of that,” said Yuchmow, who was bummed out when the Big Bang Theory TV show ended its 12-year run. “I’m really into astronomy, chemistry, astro chem, research and development. Ever since I was a kid I always liked looking up at the sky, pointing out stars.”

Nowadays, people who motion toward him during a race are pretty much pointing out a star swimmer.