“If I could put Curtis’ heart in all my swimmers, I would be thrilled. He has the heart of a champion, and as coaches, that is something we can’t teach.”
— Meghan Francone, Moffat County High School boys varsity swimming coach, speaking about sophomore Curtis Bowser’s work ethic in the pool
As the 100-yard freestyle race came to a close Saturday in Montrose, swimmers and coaches alike where cheering on the athlete in the outside lane.
It wasn’t a record-breaking performance or a swimmer pushing for a state-qualifying time.
Curtis Bowser was 20 seconds behind every other swimmer in his heat, but his last-place finish wasn’t the real story.
Bowser, a Moffat County High School sophomore, had hardly been in a pool in his 16 years let alone been a competitive swimmer before joining the MCHS boys swimming team this season.
But no matter how far behind he is, Bowser continues to cut time in his first year as a Bulldogs swimmer, meet after meet, and the opposing teams take notice.
“My best time was a 1:52, but I cut 10 seconds and swam a 1:42,” Bowser said. “Everyone was so proud of that and it felt like I was winning.
“The Montrose coach told me if a swimmer takes off that much time, it doesn’t matter if he is first or last, he is a winner.”
Coming into the season, Bowser said he was looking for a sport to keep him busy before football and wrestling resume next year.
In the first practice, he said he could maybe swim a couple of hundred meters, but now he is up to swimming about 5,000 meters.
“I thought practice would be very hard and it is,” he said. “There are a lot of drills and we are always pushing. I never thought I’d be able to do something like this, but I have built up with the help of my coaches.”
Coaches Meghan Francone and Anita Reynolds have had to adjust Bowser’s workout load compared to the rest of the team.
However, Francone said she adds more every week and Bowser takes on the challenge.
“We up the meters he swims every week and we give him longer sets and shorter rests,” she said. “We want to up the bar for him and he does, too. He hasn’t missed one practice or one meet and he is always trying.”
Francone said the reaction to Bowser’s events in Montrose was amazing and she had never seen coaches or officials cheer on an opposing swimmer the way they do him.
“Each team has their champion or their state hopefuls, and everyone cares about focusing on them,” she said. “But Curtis is always cutting time and it is just as rewarding to be part of that and watch him work so hard.”
The best part of swimming competitively, Bowser said, is being able to get in shape.
As a freshman, Bowser said he weighed about 330 pounds. Now, he is down to about 250.
“After wrestling, I was just sitting around the house, hardly doing anything,” he said. “I may not be in as good of shape as the players on the football field or the track, but I feel like I am in great shape and have great conditioning.”
When it comes time to compete, the end goal is less about winning and more about improving, Bowser said.
“I am still learning the technique and I know I take extra time to get parts down,” he said. “But, Meghan and Anita help me and they understand that it may take a little longer.
“Sure, practice is hard, but it is well worth it once you finish a race.”
It’s Bowser’s positive outlook, Francone said, that makes him a one-of-a-kind swimmer.
“If I could put Curtis’ heart in all my swimmers, I would be thrilled,” she said. “He has the heart of a champion, and as coaches, that is something we can’t teach.”
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