The butterfly has come to signify something ethereal and beautiful.
But for swimmers, the butterfly can be ugly, a monster to avoid.
Which is how Luke Wotruba came to the sport after discovering in Wyoming a stroke most of his teammates shunned like a plague.
“When I was young I always liked the way the ‘fly looked in the water,” he said. “I was told it was hard and decided to do it because fewer swimmers were in it.”
That was just fine with Spokane Area Swimming teammate Joe Tidwell, who gave up the event when Wotruba came here six years ago.
Tidwell has since distinguished himself in the breaststroke.
“I was a butterflyer like Luke. Our times were .2 second different,” said Tidwell. “When he moved here we got another butterfly swimmer, he was bad at the breaststroke so I decided to do it.”
The result is that both University High School seniors are nationally ranked in their specialties.
And Wotruba, with a near-perfect grade point average, is one of 136 national high school Academic All-America swimmers.
“You get a certain amount of points for your GPA, which was 4.0 at the time, and a certain amount of points for swimming in nationals,” said Wotruba of his selection. “It is more of a personal achievement.”
The high school classmates are competitors for high-point honors at weekend meets. They swim every race, up to 14, during competition. At nationals, they concentrate on their specialties and medleys, which include the four swim groups - butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle.
They arrived at the same point differently. Tidwell’s success came almost instantly; Wotruba was a late bloomer.
“Joe has more talent than I,” said Wotruba. “He’s been good his whole life. I wasn’t good until age 14.”
Yet both have one thing in common. Their times have improved steadily every year. And they expect more improvement in the future.
“Most swimmers bag it when they hit a plateau,” said Tidwell. “Luke and I have pretty much gotten faster.”
And colleges have come calling.
The secret? They learned the importance of technique over labor while attending two Stanford University swim camps. They were told that without technique a swimmer is nothing.
“A lot of swimmers think if they come and work hard they’ll get fast.” said Wotruba. “Joe and I are not close to being the hardest working swimmers, but we have the best strokes on the team.”
The odds are he and Tidwell, who has signed at UNLV, will go separate ways upon graduation from high school. Wotruba has yet to decide at which college he will swim and major in electrical engineering.
But the pair won’t lose contact. Swimming has taught them more than organization and discipline.
It has made them lifetime friends.
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