Apr. 3—When Eric "Woobie" Kupsky hops into the pool, he sees nothing but the water and the clock. This is how he's trained for years, and how the freshman from MMI Prep competed the majority of his first high school swim season.
In his three regular season meets, Kupsky competed the way he practiced — alone in the "exhibition" lane at Wyoming Seminary's pool.
But competing against the clock encouraged Kupsky to continuously seek faster times. He broke two records at the Blue Knights' pool (200 IM and 500 free) during the regular season, and set the District 2 record in the 500 free with a time of 4:42.48 for a gold medal — the first ever district title for an MMI swimmer. He was second in the 200 IM (1:58.74).
At the PIAA Class 2A championships, Kupsky continued to shine with a bronze medal in the 500 free (4:44.50) and a seventh-place swim in the 200 IM (1:57.09) after being seeded second and 10th, respectively.
For his breakout season, Kupsky was selected as The Citizens' Voice Boys Swimmer of the Year.
"I remember when I was really young just looking at the clock and thinking, 'I want to beat my time from yesterday,'" Kupsky said. "And then, just working harder every day."
Kupsky is the fourth in a line of swimmers who have made a splash in the pool. Sisters Paige and Tara Kupsky, former WVC district champions, are on the record wall at Wyoming Seminary, while third sister April swam at The Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida.
Lori Blue, Woobie's mother and a former field hockey player for Bucknell, is also his coach for high school and rec swimming at the Wilkes-Barre YMCA.
When Kupsky was younger, he trained against his sisters, whom he noticed would swim against the clock instead of each other. He adopted that philosophy and believes focusing on himself, rather than another person, gave him an edge going into the season.
"I don't really know that it feels like to be on a high school team with a bunch of other kids, anyway," Kupsky said. "It just kind of felt normal."
While Kupsky competed alone at high school meets, he did swim with others at the rec level. After their home clubs closed down because of the pandemic, eventual district and state champions, like Lakeland's Peter Kawash, ended up at the Wilkes-Barre YMCA training under Blue.
Kupsky said there was a transition from practicing alone to with a team, such as having to adjust his warm-up pace to account for his teammates. However, he said he learned a lot from them and applied that knowledge.
Even while competing against his rec teammates during PIAA virtual meets, he never felt anxious or uncomfortable. He already knew what times they were recording in certain events because he knew how they swam.
"It was different," said Kupsky of competing against his rec teammates during high school competition. "I'm going from just racing them in practice to actually racing them. But it's still fun to know that your teammate's right there with you.
"When I train alone, I feel so focused on the set. I feel like I can go faster in a practice with the whole team, but I feel a lot more focused by myself."
Q: Do you think coming from a family of swimmers really helped you succeed from an early age?
A: When I swam alone with my sisters, I noticed they always worked hard. I wanted to be just like them, so I started working hard just to try and beat them.
Q: What's the first thing that goes through your mind when you prepare for a race?
A: I just try to focus. Obviously, you're really nervous, but that probably helps later in the race because you realize it's all going to be OK. You just have to finish the race, and you don't even think.
Q: Because you're so early in your high school career and you've already achieved so much, are you less fearful and more excited for future seasons?
A: I didn't know what districts and states were like until this year, so I feel like the next few years to come will be a lot less nerve-wracking and I'll know what to expect.
Q: What events do you really hope to progress in over the next year?
A: I certainly need to work on my 200 IM more. I didn't have the biggest drop (in time), and when I got to districts and states I didn't drop at all. And I don't really know if that was because I was nervous, or what really happened, but next year I'll know what to expect so I can work on that event more.
Q: What's your biggest goal next season?
A: I certainly want to win states, and maybe get some more district records.
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