Everyone around Huntington High School has known for some time that senior Gunther Cassell is an exceptional swimmer. After all, he has the gold and silver medals from the New York State Championships and plenty of other trophies to prove it. But did anyone know he was this good?
The teenager has qualified for the U.S. Olympic swimming team trials that will help determine which athletes compete in the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“I must say that it is an incredible honor that I will be competing at the trials in Omaha, Nebraska,” Mr. Cassell said. “I’ve been working harder in the water like never before, devoting an excessive amount of time to my training and just learning to love the sport of swimming even more.”
Yes, it really is true; the Blue Devil star loves the water and the competition that goes with the sport he’s been committed to since a young age. Even when things do not go his way, he finds something positive to focus on. He’s an affable sort of fellow, but he can also be a fierce competitor with nerves of steel.
“I had a meet over in California during the summer and I swam my two best races, 100 and 200 meter breaststroke at the Junior National Championships there,” Mr. Cassell recounted earlier this week. “I won the 100 with a best time and I won my 200 prelims race with a top time of 2:15.87, but was disqualified on a bad call made by an official. That call had unfortunately cost me my spot on the United States Junior National team where I could have represented the U.S. wherever they needed me.”
Almost anyone that puts as much time into training and competing as Mr. Cassell would take such a turn of events pretty hard. “I didn’t let that get to me,” he recalled. “Twenty minutes later, I was back on the starting block to time trial the 200 breaststroke again, this time out for blood and to show that I wouldn’t simply back down”.
Mr. Cassell won the time trial by clocking 2:16.47. “All in all, I believe that my not making the junior team was God’s way of saying, “now is not the time, I have other plans for you,” he said. “Sure enough, when the Olympic trial cuts were released and I had seen that I had made my two best events, I broke down and just really truly felt blessed to have been lucky enough to make such an amazing accomplishment in my life.”
Sought after by many colleges and universities, Mr. Cassell is considering the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Arizona, Virginia Tech, Indiana University, and Penn State.
Cassell is coached on the Huntington team by Gil Smith, who founded the program more than three decades ago. He’s the best swimmer in the program’s history and the teenager has continued to break new ground by qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Trials.
“If there’s one thing I’d like to say about this whole experience, it would be summed up by this: “Keep reaching for the stars and one day you’ll put one in your pocket,” Cassell said. “He’s been a star for several years around Huntington High School, but he’s not done reaching for new heights just yet.