Long hopes to help Aquadogs continue their area dominance

Tyler Hotz, Staff Writer

The Bearden swim team has been one of the school’s highest-achieving athletics programs for years and has produced many great teams and championships.

It has also produced a number of standout individuals.

Continuing that tradition this year, junior Bryar Long will hope to propel the Bulldogs to win what Coach Justin Baxter thinks would be their eighth straight city title.

“For the team this year, I would like to win city again,” Long said. “We have won city every year that I have been on the team, so it would be awesome to do it again.

“A top five finish in state would also be great.”

Swimming is yet another sport that focuses strongly on work outside of school competition. Long swims the 200 IM (Individual Medley) and 100 breaststroke for Bearden. He also participates in a club program where he swims 200 and 400 IM as well as the 100 and 200 breaststroke. To ensure his success in the pool, Long swims before and after school every single day.

“[My favorite part] of swimming, simply, is all of it,” Long said. “I love the whole thing, but the hardest part is getting in the pool at 5:30 in the morning when it is freezing cold.”

Added senior captain Will Kerr: “He has always been a crazy competitor and is always going to practice. He is always the first one there and always the hardest-working person.”

The Aquadogs have been known to dominate the area, but this season a new competitor has entered the field. Hardin Valley defeated Bearden in a close meet in October and could be a threat to the Aquadogs’ Knoxville superiority.

Bearden will get its chance to respond at a meet this Sunday against West and Berean.

“The Tennessee Aquatics is the main club team in the area, and their coach has started coaching Hardin Valley,” junior captain Ryan Knight said. “Some people have even transferred schools to swim under him.”

Even with the great goals for Bearden, Long has been working non-stop for his ultimate dream for years. He wants to make the U.S. team for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“I have counted down to the Olympics for 2000 days, and now we are down to 646 days [as of last Wednesday],” Long said. “It’s a goal that I have had since I was 10 years old.

“I have my cuts, and in 2016, I get to try out for the Olympic team, and I would love to make it.”

With such a high bar set, some people can let the pressure and expectations go to their heads. As for Long, he has no problem.

“He is good at not letting his success go to his head,” Knight said. “It can happen to some people, but he is still very good at talking with the team.”