AK Valley Seniors Spotlight: St. Joseph’s Sam Wygonik


Monday, February 28, 2022 | 09:00

Sam Wygonik finishes his lessons each day and heads for swim practice, but for the St. Joseph eldest, it’s not as easy as walking down a few hallways to the natatorium.

Wygonik is the lone swimmer at St. Joseph and does his daily workouts at Fox Chapel High School. He is an “adopted” member of the Foxes team who competes in their competitions as an independent.

He appreciated the chance to be part of the group and benefited from training with other talented swimmers. His work has certainly paid off.

He has some of the best reported times in the 200 yard freestyle (fourth, 1:48.24) and 500 freestyle (fifth, 4:55.63) and is expected to be among the top seeds for upcoming swimming championships. WPIAL Class 2A on March 3-4 at Pitt’s Pool of Trees.

An elbow injury and subsequent surgeries wiped out his second season, but he came back strong in 2020-21. Wygonik earned a fourth-place finish in the 500 and was sixth in the 200 at last season’s WPIAL competition and finished 11th in the 500 at the PIAA Championships.

Fox Chapel trainer Dan Taylor cites Wygonik’s focus, strong work ethic and high pain tolerance for his success. He will have to rely on all these qualities to fight for WPIAL gold.

Wygonik took a few minutes before practice last week for a Senior Spotlight Q&A:

How has the swim season been so far?

I think it’s been a very good season so far. Since I learned to drive, I can go to the gym more often. I have become stronger. In 2019 I had two elbow surgeries which set me back a bit. I think I’m much better from there.

Is it strange to be the only swimmer in Saint-Joseph and to train with students from another team?

It was definitely a weirder freshman year. I have swum with many of them before. At St. Joe’s, it’s small anyway. It’s hard not to go to school with the people I swim with, but I’m kind of adopted with them at home.

What makes you want to swim in distance events?

The distance really appeals to me. It is something impressive that not many people can do. That’s how I started in it. Then I kind of developed a love for it. I find it rewarding to complete it with this sustained speed.

Have you ever participated in even longer events at club meetings?

From time to time, I will do the mile or 1000 (meters). I lost a lot of my long, long stamina (after the elbow injury) in terms of competitive edge. So I’m doing the (200 and 500) now.

What are your goals for the WPIAL championships?

I want to try to be in the top three at least because last year I finished fourth and I felt like I was snubbed. I absolutely want to be in the top three, and obviously the goal is to win. I think I have a good chance. Not that I don’t think other people are going to waste time, but I think I have a good chance of wasting time. This is how I swim. At the time of the championship, I am connected and I really do my best.

How did you discover swimming?

I started swimming when I was 5 years old. I took swimming lessons at Sylvan Pool in Harrison Township and joined the team the summer there. I joined the Allegheny Valley YMCA to see if I wanted to do it year round. Then my summer coaches recommended I try (Fox Chapel) Killer Whales 10 years ago. I’ve been there ever since. It was a fun ride.

Have you made any plans for next fall?

I’m still waiting for university acceptances. I got accepted to Georgia Tech. I don’t know yet if I will swim in college. But I will definitely swim, it’s just a question if I’m on a team. I started to get interested in triathlon.

Are you involved in other activities in Saint-Joseph?

I’m the student council president. I do leadership and student ambassador, a bunch of miscellaneous things. Last year I was on the robotics team. I have also done scientific research in the past.

What might people not know about you?

I am quite focused on studies. I love a lot of STEM programs. I want to study physics at university. This is a surprise to some people. I think I want to get into some sort of STEM field.

Have you watched the Winter Olympics?

I think slopestyle and things like that are really cool, snowboarding and skiing. I watched Nathan Chen do the figure skating routine, and it was crazy.

Bill Hartlep is the sports editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill at [email protected] or via Twitter @BHartlep_Trib.

Tags: Saint Joseph

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