The Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) of Brooklyn and Queens has always preached the importance of sportsmanship among the youth who participate in its activities.
When young athletes place sportsmanship above winning, the CYO knows its mission is being put into practice.
At the annual boys’ swimming Olympics held Dec. 16 at the Eisenhower Park Aquatics Center, East Meadow, L.I., three swimmers displayed the values of what CYO sports are truly all about.
In the Senior Division 100-yd. Individual Medley (IM), Youssef Elkhouly from OLAN (a combined team of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and St. Andrew the Apostle, Bay Ridge) set a new record with a time of 57.05.
Also setting a record with a time of 57.91 was second-place finisher Brian Baldwin of Good Shepherd, Marine Park. Rounding out the top three was St. Francis de Sales (SFDS), Belle Harbor, swimmer Danny Cornish at 1:01.55.
But what makes this situation unique is that these 14-year-old swimming sensations are all good friends outside the pool.
The trio has swum either with or against each other for a number of years. Brian and Danny have been friends since the fourth grade, and they met Youssef through competing with U.S.A. Swim.
At the CYO Olympics, each swimmer may only compete in one event. Brian and Danny spoke beforehand about which event they would be swimming, and both had a feeling they would be swimming against Youssef.
Rather than choose another event with a better chance of winning, Brian and Danny decided to test themselves and put their best effort forward in the 100-yd. IM. All three also wanted to race the Senior IM together, since this would be their last CYO Olympics.
“Not every time the same person is going to win,” said Brian, a freshman at Xavier H.S., Manhattan. “With Danny and Youssef, we really didn’t know who was going to win. We went into the race knowing that it was going to be close with all three of us.”
A Thrilling Finish
Youssef, Brian and Danny were the only three participants in the 100-yd. IM, which is made up of the butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle. All eyes in the Eisenhower Park Aquatics Center were fixated on their every stroke.
When Youssef completed his swim and looked up at the board, he saw he had shattered the previous record by a second and a half – a significant time in swimming. Brian’s time also set a new CYO record.
It turns out last year’s first and second place finishers in the 100-yd. IM also both set records. Even more coincidentally, the previous record holder was Danny’s brother Kyle Cornish from SFDS who edged Brian’s brother Sean from Good Shepherd.
After the race, all three swimmers came off the deck smiling and patting each other on the back in a commendable show of sportsmanship.
“Coming into it, all three of us knew it would be close,” said Danny, a freshman at Chaminade H.S., Mineola, L.I. “We were talking to each other before the race at the meet, so we were prepared for whatever happened. We’re always proud of each other for our accomplishments.”
Brian and Danny likely would have finished first in any other event they chose to swim. However, they tested themselves against a talented competitor in Youssef, and all three were ecstatic with the final results – knowing that they each gave their best effort.
“Competing against them throughout all these years has been great because every time if they beat me in a race or I beat them in a race, they give me a handshake and say ‘good job’ no matter what,” said Youssef, a freshman at Telecommunications H.S., Bay Ridge. “Although we’re competitive in the water, we’re still friendly outside at all times.”
That right there is exactly what the CYO stands for.
As these swimmers continue their careers in the pool throughout high school, the foundational values they learned in CYO will undoubtedly mold them into all-around student-athletes. Their paths are bound to cross again through their outside U.S.A. Swim programs, so they surely will be treating local swim enthusiasts to plenty more exciting head-to-head-to-head matchups.
The boys’ CYO careers officially wrapped up Jan. 6 at this year’s championship meet. But it will always be the memorable swim in the 100-yd. IM at the Olympics that stands out for them moving forward.
Talk about going out with a “splash.”
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.