Tonawanda News — It’s been a bit of a rebuilding year for the North Tonawanda boys swimming team this season.
The Lumberjacks are only 1-11, capturing their first win of the season last Tuesday against Kenmore East. But there is positivity funneling through the NT program as the team has started to come together under first-year coach Matt Nalbone.
At the center of the excitement is junior Nick Mallone, who currently holds the No. 2 Niagara Frontier League times on the season in the 50 freestyle (23.10) and the 100 freestyle (51.24). Nalbone has been impressed with Mallone’s versatility.
“He can swim any event and he can swim it well,” Nalbone said. “The past few weeks he has really started to excel at the 50 and 100 free. He’s a leader, everybody looks up to him and he gets everybody motivated. He’s always focused on his events, but also getting others focused as well.”
Mallone started swimming in sixth grade when his cousin introduced him to the sport. After completing his first swim meet, Mallone was hooked.
At the beginning Mallone gravitated toward distance swimming, but with his emerging sprinting talents he is starting to enjoy the faster races.
He said most of the credit for his success this season goes to his coach.
“Mostly I have to give the credit to my coach because he’s been working us so hard the whole season,” Mallone said. “When I was a freshman I started off doing more distance, but now I’m getting more into the sprinting.”
“He works us a lot on our technique, and that’s helped us a lot,” he continued. “He works a lot on our turns and that helps more because, in his eyes, you can win a race based solely on your turns. It’s true honestly — I’ve been working on my turns a lot, getting on and off the wall real quick, and that has helped me drop a lot of time. We do a lot of reaction drills and those help us get off the blocks quicker. The underwater dolphin kicks are helping us get up quicker from under water, too.”
Out of the pool Mallone is a leader, Nalbone said. He is somebody that leads by example and with his words.
“He gets everybody together and he doesn’t treat someone that’s a freshman or on JV any different,” Nalbone said. “He treats everybody as equal and makes sure everyone is doing what they’re supposed to be doing. If he sees someone slacking off he’s the first one to try to and encourage them. He’s a great teammate.”
Mallone, who runs cross country in the fall to get in shape for swimming, is planning to focus only on swim his senior year in pursuit of some pool records at NT. He said he loves swimming in the NFL because of the competition he faces in every meet.
“Everybody in our league, I know a lot of the guys and they’re real cool to hang out with and they’re all good swimmers,” Mallone said. “I’m just glad I’m in a league where I have competition. My cousin is in a different league where he doesn’t really have that competition, but for me it wouldn’t be the same thing. It’s good because I’m pushed more and it helps to get my times lower. Maybe I can even break a record.”
Nalbone is hoping his standout swimmer can make a run at the records as well.
“His stroke, in everything he swims, is very clean,” Nalbone said. “I think now with my coaching style, focusing more on technique and fine-tuning a few things to make him more efficient, he can excel a lot more. In the past it was more about yardage and the more yardage the better, but now it’s mostly about technique. He’s starting to get that and starting to understand that, learning to kick more, which is a big part. His senior year I think he’ll have some records.”Follow @tonanewssports and sports editor @MattParrino on Twitter for complete high school sports coverage.