DENHAM SPRINGS – The thought of his status as a school record holder in two events and an All-Metro selection in the 100-breaststroke would have been enough for Walker senior Trey Poland to enjoy a hearty laugh.
At his own expense.
“I would have laughed hard seven years ago,” Poland said before a recent practice at North Park’s aquatic center.
Never had Poland envisioned such distinction – holding school marks in the 100 breaststroke and 200 individual medley along with All-Metro honors in 2017 - transpiring until the 17-year-old turned his full attention to competitive swimming.
All that appeared to be a far-fetched idea until nearly coming to grips with own mortality when Poland, who was attempting to save a cousin from drowning, nearly suffered the same fate.
The details some seven years later remain sketchy where Poland was very fortunate that his aunt, Debra Choate, was alert and courageous enough to save both he and his younger cousin from the pool that didn’t have lifeguards present.
“I didn’t know what to do, I thought I should help him,” Poland said of his cousin. “It didn’t cross my mind to ask for parental help. I knew how to swim but not how to save somebody and be a hero. I remember nearly drowning and coughing it (water) up. My aunt rescued us both.”
That harrowing experience served as the catalyst where Poland and his mother decided he should take swim lessons at North Park which eventually led him to joining Tiger Aquatics Club, where he expanded his horizons and learned how to swim freestyle and the backstroke.
“That influenced my mom to get me into swimming lessons,” Poland said of the near drowning episode. “I had the motivation to push myself beyond what I thought I could do. If you let something hold you back, you’re not going to be able to know what you can do. You don’t know about the sport until you get into it.”
Almost from the instant, Poland was hooked.
After a 1-1 ½ years with Tiger Aquatic, an improving Poland switched to Crawfish Aquatics in Baton Rouge where he trained with coach Billy Newport, who discovered that the breaststroke and Poland were a perfect match.
“That’s where my career started off,” Poland said.
By his own admission Poland was at a disadvantage compared to his competitive peers, who had an earlier introduction to the sport with some getting a four-to-five-year head start, he said.
That further fueled Poland to make up the stagger the competition enjoyed, developing a passion for the sport throughout his daily training regimen which reached six days the past three years.
It’s commonplace to have found Poland training with Newport and Jayme Cramer at Crawfish Aquatics during the afternoons, while practicing with his Walker High teammates on Fridays after school.
Moreover, Poland has combined workouts on Friday mornings. He’s up at 4, in the pool by 5 for a 90-minute training session at Crawfish Aquatics, drives back for school and returns to North Park for 3 o’clock that afternoon for another 90-minute workout.
“It’s exhausting but it’s needed,” Poland said. “This sport is not like you can skip a day or a week. If you do that, it takes a while to get back to where you are.”
Walker swimming coach Kevin Fambrough said Poland’s accomplishments haven’t been by accident.
“Jered has had one of the best work ethics I’ve seen,” he said. “I think one of the keys to the success he has had is giving 100 percent in every practice, no matter the distance or set he is doing.”
Poland is proud of his two school records (1:02.25 in the breaststroke set in 2016) and 200 IM (2:09:21 established at the ’17 state meet), something he ardently shares with his teammates and coaches.
At the both the Capital City and LHSAA State meets the past two years, Poland has been a top-8 finisher in both events and his runners-up finish in the breaststroke at last year’s city meet (1:03.85) remains a tremendous source of pride and is an indication of his potential.
By the time he finishes his high school career Poland, who placed fifth in both the 50-freestyle (24.7) and 100-backstroke (1:02.24) at the Lafayette High Invitational Open last Saturday, has designs on holding all nine of Walker’s school records and extending his swimming career to the collegiate level.
He begins the Capital City Swim League portion of his schedule when Walker competes Sept. 16 and 22 and Oct. 13 at the Ketchum Center in Baton Rouge.
“My goal is to get all of them,” said Poland, who carries a 3.8 GPA and scored 29 on the ACT. “I’m shooting high. It’s a gradual process, but I have high expectations.”