Shaw High School
by Beth Welch
photography by Jim Dillard
Grandfather’s Knowledge Puts Shaw Swimmer A Stroke Ahead
Bryndon Clark doesn’t remember a time when he didn’t know how to swim. Clark’s grandparents had a swimming pool when the Shaw High School senior was growing up, allowing him the opportunity to spend his summer days and weekends in the water.
Swimming has been a longtime passion for Clark’s grandfather, Billy Clark, who introduced swimming to his grandson. A Columbus native and Jordan High School graduate, he was involved in training swimmers in the military. Billy Clark has been coaching swimming off and on for over 60 years so it was natural for him to encourage his grandson to pursue the sport.
“He was always teaching me about different techniques,” says 17-year-old Bryndon Clark. “He would get in the water and work with me but he would also give me books and tell me to study them.”
The tutelage paid off when Clark decided as a Shaw freshman to try out for the school’s swim team. He had not participated in organized swimming prior to that but it wasn’t exactly a leap of faith. Clark took to the sport, well, like a fish to water.
“Yeah, pretty much. It just seemed natural after swimming all my life,” he says.
During the four years he has been a member of the Raiders swim team, Clark has participated in the 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle events as well as the breaststroke. He was even a member of the boys relay team but has selected the 50 freestyle and the breaststroke as his main competition events.
“The 50 and 100 were back to back and I needed time to rest and we don’t have enough guys for the relay any more, but I like the 50 and breaststroke events,” Clark says.
Competitive swimming is considered a winter sport for local schools. Clark trains heavily during the season and adheres to a more restrictive diet than in the offseason. One of the reasons he prefers swimming is the overall workout he gets. In his first two years at Shaw, Clark was a member of the school’s baseball team and used swimming as a way to stay in shape for the spring sport.
“Swimming helped me with my shoulders and upper body while I was playing baseball,” says Clark, who was a Raiders first baseman. Eventually, baseball became a casualty of Clark’s swimming regimen.
For his proficiency in swimming for Shaw, Clark snagged an honorable mention in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer’s All Bi-City Swim Team his sophomore and junior seasons. Of the two events he competes in, he considers breaststroke his best.
“I’m fast at it. My legs are strong enough to give me that extra kick in the water. It is one of the most complicated techniques because if you don’t time it right, you get disqualified,” he says. “It’s my favorite. I just find it easier after all this time.”
Clark might be a natural in the water but he isn’t blind to his deficits. On his “need to improve” list is a plan to work on his backstroke, which involves staying straight and getting the timing right on the “flip” turn.
Swimming is unusual from most sports in that it is simultaneously an individual sport and a team sport. This unique aspect of competitive swimming is one of the reasons Clark kicked swimming up to the top rung of his sports ladder.
“You want to beat your other times. At the same time you want to beat everybody else. I like that you can get your individual thing where you can improve yourself and then you can also compare yourself to other people,” says Clark.
For the four years Clark has been on the Raiders swim team, he has started out each season with a new coach. This year, Callyn Neal has taken the helm. Not only is this her first year coaching swimmers, it is her first year at Shaw High School. Already the Learning Support Specialist has discovered Clark is a valuable member of her team.
“Bryndon has brought an optimistic, motivated attitude to the team this year. He has been extremely helpful with assisting new team members with proper execution of swimming strokes as well as with providing advice on how to improve overall as a team,” says Neal.
After his senior swim season comes to an end, Clark will swap indoor swimming for outdoor tennis. Last year, Clark decided to try his hand at another spring sport and settled on tennis. Although he had never picked up a racket prior to last year, Clark served up a productive season.
“He played on both varsity and junior varsity. He improved and was challenging for a doubles spot at the season end. The team made state for the fourth season, so making varsity is an accomplishment in itself,” says Laurie McInroy, Clark’s tennis coach at Shaw.
For Clark, the new sport proved to be an enjoyable endeavor.
“I liked it a lot. I wanted something to help me stay active in the offseason and I find tennis to be challenging since I haven’t been playing it very long. I also like the environment of tennis. It’s different from some other sports because I can relax and there isn’t a lot of noise,” he says.
Clark might feel like he can relax while playing doubles, but inside the classroom, he goes full force. His current grade point average of 3.7 is accompanied by membership in an impressive list of clubs and organizations, including the National French Honor Society and the National Honor Society. According to his coaches, Clark has a reputation for putting academics first.
“He is a solid performer academically. Our team has high standards in the classroom. They all strive to be on the principal’s list or honor roll. Bryndon is one of the six out of 10 that made that goal the first nine weeks. He makes classwork a priority,” says McInroy.
Neal adds, “Although I am new to Shaw and have not yet had the opportunity to teach him myself, I have heard many wonderful comments regarding Bryndon’s achievement, attitude and work ethic in class from fellow faculty members.”
“Grades have always been stressed by my parents. They really don’t have to say much, though, because I like school. Especially science,” says Clark.
Clark hopes to be a student at the University of Georgia next year, where he plans to combine his passion for science and water by working toward a degree in marine biology. Whatever develops after high school, Clark’s swim coach has no doubt he will be successful.
“Bryndon is a great student athlete with a bright future ahead of him,” says Neal.