Hunter Brakovec was a little disappointed at first in his finish at the 2014 swimming and diving state championships. But the more he thought about it – and it didn’t take long – the more he looked back on a strong senior season and a stellar career at Independence with great pride.
“Right after the race it was sort of disappointing,” the senior standout said. “But after it sunk in and I looked at it, I had a pretty good time so I’m happy that I made it to that point and was able to finish that high.”
While what Brakovec did in the pool this year was pretty remarkable, it’s nothing new to him. He won the Class 4A Western Regional last year in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 4 minutes, 40.75 seconds.
Brakovec wanted to repeat this season but swam to a second-place finish (4:42.71) – less than a half seconds off the pace – and missed a regional title in the 100 breaststroke by 0.21 seconds, as he again settled for second
At the state meet a week later, Brakovec finished fifth in the 500 freestyle (4:36.32) and missed placing in the 100 breaststroke by 0.05 seconds, settling for 10th (59.66 seconds).
The performances were more than good enough to earn Brakovec the 2014 Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group’s Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly’s Swimmer of the Year award for the third consecutive
But, true to his humble form, Brakovec isn’t as much concerned with individual success as he is with helping put the Patriots on the swimming radar along with the usual Class 4A powers.
“I’m happy with how my senior year went,” he said. “I’d say it was a good year and I had a larger role on the team. I’m more of a quieter person, but I tried to step up and be more of a leader and be more vocal this year.”
Behind Brakovec’s leadership and guidance the Patriots’ 200 individual medley relay and 200 freestyle relay teams both finished 16th in the region, and more than his personal accomplishments, that’s probably what Brakovec is most pleased
“I’m happy with overall how our team did,” he said. “We lost a lot of people last year and we had a lot of people rise to the occasion this year, so I’m most happy for
“This year I’ve learned that anyone can move up and do good. I look at our team where we have people who started out maybe not so good, but they worked hard and they got good enough to swim relays at regionals, which is great.”
While Brakovec, who began competitively swimming at age 11, swam his way to a lot of personal and team success while at Independence, his competitive days in the pool aren’t over. The 4.7 GPA-carrying senior signed with the University of Pennsylvania on National Signing Day, and said he’ll swim distance events and may look into studying classical studies.
But, as he leaves Independence in a better place in the pool than when Brakovec arrived as a freshman, he hopes he’s helped make a difference.
“I’m hoping that people will see that people from our small school – not usually a school thought of as being good (in swimming) – can get up there and do pretty well in the states, the regionals and the conference,” he said.
“In the end, of course all of the work was worth it. I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t love it.”