Boys Swimming: Stagg’s Zack Amendola covers all aspects — mental and physical — to find pool success
By Tim Tierney For Sun-Times Media February 23, 2014 4:32PM
Zack Amendola, of Stagg | Gary Middendorf/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 24, 2014 2:09AM
After his freshman year at Stagg, Zack Amendola realized the commitment it would take to rise above the pack.
The young swimmer wasn’t happy with the times he posted or how the season had ended. It was clear that getting better, much better, wouldn’t be easy.
“I didn’t understand what it took to play with the big dogs,’’ Amendola said. “Freshman year, I didn’t achieve my goals in swimming. I could put excuses on it, but everybody has excuses.
“Going into sophomore year, that’s when I realized if I really wanted to do these goals and be All-State, All-American, I’m going to have to whip my butt into shape.’’
With what he called “a total mentality change’’ last year as a sophomore, Amendola won the 100-yard backstroke (53.06 seconds) and the 100 butterfly (52.66) at the Lockport Sectional to qualify for the state championships.
This season, he led Stagg to the SouthWest Suburban Blue title by winning the backstroke, butterfly and swimming on two first-place relays.
“Swimming is a mind game. It’s all mental,’’ Amendola said.
It’s a game he’s winning with regularity.
“Getting stronger in the weight room, constantly swimming outside his comfort zone,’’ Stagg coach Jason Carr said of Amendola’s improvement. “Sometimes guys swim and they don’t want to feel the pain in practices.
“Zack will always take it there — and a little bit more.’’
The determination is a family trait, Zack said. His father, Robert, was a football player at Oak Forest. His mother, Elizabeth, was a swimmer. It was Zack’s older brother Brayden who got Zack and his twin brother, Nick, into swimming.
Brayden made the long trek to St. Ignatius and earned All-State status his senior year by finishing 12th in the breaststroke at the 2012 state meet.
“When it came time for high school, it was really tough deciding whether to join Brayden for one year at St. Ignatius or take our footsteps here at Stagg,’’ Zack said.
He and Nick decided on Stagg, where their cousins also had been swimmers.
“It’s competitive,’’ Zack said of swimming with his twin. “We have to support each other. If we don’t support each other, it’d be hard swimming in the same pool.’’
“It can be fun and very competitive,’’ Nick said. “We like to push each other. I look up to him.’’
He’s not the only one.
“Zack does bring a lot of leadership to the team,’’ Carr said. “Even as a sophomore, there was leadership that you saw.’’
Zack has wondered how much success he might have if his 5-foot-8 frame, which at first he jokingly said was 5-9, had several more inches.
“I’ve looked at Harlan Long, a 6-4 guy. ‘Man, if I was his height,’ ’’ Zack said of his senior teammate. “My dad has stressed, ‘You’ve proved to people you can be a smaller guy doing what you’re doing. It’s all about hard work and what you do in practice.’ ’’
Zack, Long, junior Evan Johnson and freshman Lucas Smiarowski have been the leaders for Stagg this season, a very successful one that’s not over yet.
“This year we’re catching up to one of the best years at Stagg,’’ Zack said.