GREAT BARRINGTON -- Freshman aren't supposed to outperform seniors. They aren't as developed physically or as experienced. At least that's the way it is in most sports.
Swimming isn't one of those, and Brandon Louison has been proving that all season.
The 14-year-old on the Monument Mountain boys swim team will be competing at the Western Massachusetts meet on Sunday.
"The reason Brandon is so great is he works hard for it, and he's been swimming since he was 9 years old," said coach Jill Svirida, who has coached him since that time. "He has the technique, he puts in the work and he's a great racer."
Many freshman boys have yet to begin packing on the muscle that many upperclassmen have. Louison is no exception, and he likely won't be mistaken for a personal trainer in the gym right now.
What he does have working for him is his height. He stands about 5-foot-9, but his curly red hair makes him look closer to 5-11. While not an imposing height now, it's a big jump from where he was about two years ago.
"I think it's definitely a big part of the reason why I'm getting faster is because of my height. I'm slowing getting taller," he said of the 8 inches he's grown the past two years. "Also, I guess it's because I've had multiple different instructors instruct me, and I've learned new techniques from them. It's really the coaching the gets me faster."
When it comes to swimming, height can be, but isn't always, a tiebreaker in a close race.
"I've know him since he was in middle school," senior teammate Derrek Rueger said, noting the time he swam with him on Snappers team. "He wasn't quite leading the lanes then, but once he got taller and stronger arms, he was just out there.
"[Height] will do quite a lot for you. [Short swimmers] just don't have the reach. They can pull as much water as they want, but if they can't quite as much as anybody else, they unfortunately can't do quite as well."
Louison has had no problem taking advantage of his height and coaching against competition in the league. He owns the fastest time in the 200 free and 500 free and two fastest times in 100 back. He's second in the 200 IM, third in the 50 free and fourth in the 100 fly (the first three belong to Taconic's George Sommerville). He's also in the top 10 in the 100 free and 100 breast.
Louison's success probably has come as no surprise to those who follow swimming at the club level, and have watched him compete for the Snappers. One person who has grown accustomed to Louison's success is his coach. She certainly hasn't been surprised by his times this season, almost shrugging them off as if to say "That's just Brandon. That's what he does."
Sounds like the reaction of those who have been watching Sommerville the past few seasons. But even he still has the ability to wow a crowd like he did Saturday at the Berkshire County Individuals, when he stopped the clock at 53.99 seconds in the 100 butterfly.
Louison isn't on that pace in that event (turning in a respectable 59.71, good enough for second place at the Berkshire County Individuals), but Svirida said definitively his times will drop even more in the postseason, when he'll focus his talents on two individual races and a relay or two.
The freshman will be competing in the 100 backstroke because, as he says, it's "my best stroke, by far." Svirida thinks he has a chance of finishing in the top five at Western Mass.
It seems he'll also be swimming the 100 fly, because thats the event he's closest to cutting a state-qualifying time in (aside from the 100 back, which he's already done). He'll need to drop nine-tenths of a second to do so.
"I'm thrilled to death with how Brandon is swimming. I'm so incredibly proud of him," she said. "I know what Brandon's capable of. He's right on track. He's got best times in most of his events this year."
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