Andrew Peterson has spent much of his last 13 summers swimming for the Elkin Wet Lightning swim team.
The Elkin native recently looked at a photo of himself - taken when he was six - and said he remembered when it was taken. His mother was mad because he had jumped in the pool before the picture was taken. He was embarrassed about the red circles the goggles left around him eyes.
He’s 18 now, but he doesn’t think he looks that much different. “It looks the same face-wise,” he said. “A little older.”
“As a kid, I really liked swimming,” he said. “I really liked the swim meets. I didn’t like the practices.”
For several years between the ages of “nine or 10” and “13 or 14,” he actually “didn’t like it that much” at all. “I hated going to meets,” he explained. “They seemed to take forever.”
His attitude toward swimming didn’t completely improve until he left Elkin to finish his high school coursework at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham.
“I really started appreciating swimming,” he said. He also established a common bond with fellow swimmers who were coping with balancing study and swimming practice schedules.
Peterson, who’s forte was the breaststroke, and his teammates won the 1A-2A state swimming championship.
‘A wonderful role model’
I thought [Elkin and Wet Lightning] practices were hard,” he said. “Science and Mathematics practices were brutal.”
Something else happened as well. “When I came back the last two summers,” he said, “I really enjoyed it.” The practices and the meets were a chance for Peterson to reconnect with friends he didn’t see at school anymore.
“I started to like swim meets again,” he said. “I wanted to beat my times. I loved practice again.”
He said he started swimming the individual medley when he was “very little.” His specialties were the butterfly and the breaststroke. The breaststroke became his best event.
“Not that many kids could swim it for 50 meters,” he said. “I really liked it. It was very different. It wasn’t as tiring.”
Peterson said that as the breaststroke worked a “totally different muscle group,” he was rested to swim another event soon after.
While there were times when practices or meets or practices and meets weren’t all that appealing, Peterson always found his time with Coach Seth “Oz” Prim and his daughter, Julianna, enjoyable.
“Oz would always push me,” he said. “He would always move me up … make me race against kids older than me.
“Julianna would always give me advice. She could always fix my stroke. And she was fun.”
“He’s got a great attitude,” Prim said. “He makes everybody better. My family’s loved that little boy since he was five.
“Some people you have to stay on. He’s not that somebody. He’s a wonderful role model for the other kids to look to.”
His last days as a member of the Elkin Wet Lightning are behind him now. “I’ll miss it,” he said. “It was a fun way to fill the summer.”
“He was a presence,” Wet Lightning Coach Emily Morrison said. “He always came with an attitude. He was just positive. He worked hard.”
Peterson said without swimming, “I wouldn’t exercise that much. It’s nice to get up and do.”
The next chapter
Peterson graduated from the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics this past May. “It’s very similar to college,” he said. “They take so many from each Congressional district.”
All classes are either advanced placement classes, honors classes, or the equivalent at NCSSM.
“I loved it,” Peterson said. “It was great. It was one of the best things I could have done.
“I liked Elkin (High School), but I didn’t realize what I was missing out on.”
There were 330 in Peterson’s senior class. The school, for juniors and seniors only, has an enrollment of about 680.
Peterson will attend Davidson College this fall. He plans a double-major - Biology and English as a prelude to a pre-med track.
He said he won’t be swimming on Davidson’s varsity team. “I’m not fast enough,” he said. “I think I’m going to do club swimming. I’ll still get to swim.
“I would like to swim for the rest of my life for exercise.”
Andrew’s parents are Dr. Robert Peterson and Gina Peterson. His brother, Jarrett, is a rising junior at Elkin High School.
Jim Fuller may be reached at 336-258-4052 or Twitter @elkinareasports.