Palmyra's Culver shooting for state gold
After capturing a district title last season as a junior, Teag Culver has his sights set even higher this time around.
As his Palmyra swim coach Cynthia Lyons will tell you with a smile, Teag Culver is a rare bird.
And one who isn't afraid to spread his wings and fly as high as possible.
Or, more appropriately, swim as fast as he can for as long as he can.
Many athletes would be satisfied with accomplishing what Culver did last season as a junior, when he somewhat surprisingly captured the District Three Class AA title in the 200-yard freestyle while also adding a district silver medal in the grueling 500-yard freestyle.
That's more than most swimmers ever come close to achieving. But this time around, Culver wants more, much more. Yeah, district gold again would be fine. But that goal is so last year. A state championship? Now that's a goal.
Not that last year wasn't fun.
"It's just everything I set out to accomplish last year, Culver said during a break from practice on Thursday. "I write my goals down clearly and just recited them over and over again: 'District champ, district champ, district champ.' If you believe you can do it, you can do it.
"I knew it would be hard to reach, but I was positive I could do it. You can't plan what your competition's gonna do, so you better plan to be pretty good."
A state championship will obviously be harder to reach, but Culver is undaunted in his quest for that title and plenty of other individual and team hardware, quickly pointing out his season goal sheet that hangs high on the wall of the pool deck at Palmyra.
It says: 10 medals, 6 records, state champ, win division. That's a rather ambitious, and if you know Culver like his coach does, and reachable set of aspirations.
"I think Teag's goals have changed a little bit from last year to this year," Lyons said. "He's shooting pretty high, and he has every reason to do that. There's no doubt in my mind that he can win (states), the way he trains. That being said, anything can happen on any day.
"Teag's really an interesting bird. He trains really well, and he has high expectations of not only himself, but of the team. It'll be interesting to see what his end of the season looks like."
Though his district title came in the all-out sprint of the 200 free, Culver feels his best shot at his ultimate goal will come in the 500 free, an event that he feels matches his identity as a self-proclaimed distance swimmer.
But like most highly successful and competitive athletes, Culver is as much about the journey as he is the destination.
"There's an old adage that says, 'It's the struggle that pleases you, not the victory.'" Culver notes. '"It's what you become in the process that's more important than what you achieve.'"
"I think Teag's determination is a lot of what makes him a good swimmer,' Lyons said. "He's a very heady swimmer, and it bleeds onto a lot of the other swimmers. He wants to learn something different every day, in and out of the pool. He's a pretty determined kid, he really is. He's really matured, he's really grown into himself. And he wants what he wants."
And even if he doesn't get what he wants - the level of competition in Pennsylvania swimming is beyond formidable - Culver clearly won't regret his choice to go for it all. It's just who he is and what he does.
"I grew up with a pool, I always liked swimming. But I never expected this," said Culver, who didn't even qualify for districts his freshman year. "You have to be just as committed to it every single day, every single practice. You have to be ready, willing and able to tackle it with your best effort.
"Every day you have to push yourself as far as you can."
For a closer look at what may lie ahead for Culver and his teammates at Palmyra, as well as the Cedar Crest boys and girls teams, see the team capsules below:
Coach: Beth Yocum, 14th year
Last year: 8-4-1 overall, 2-2-1 Section One
Current record: 3-1 overall, 0-0 Section One
Key graduation losses: Kyle Ryland, Georgiy Soltanov
Top returners/newcomers: Glaucio Silva (Sr.), AJ Loehr (Sr.), Elliot Knapp (Jr.), Matthew Moffitt (Jr.)
Outlook: Led by a strong core group of returnees, the Falcons have good reason for optimism on the heels of a solid 2014-15 campaign.
"I'm hoping that our returnees can ignite the competitive spirit that came from our exciting meet with Manheim Township last season that ended in a tie," Yocum said. "Just like the girls’ team, we are hoping to improve at the league meet in individual medals and remain consistent in the team standings. The squad is small in numbers, but we have asked each person to challenge themselves to be better individuals in the water for the team. We would like to continue qualifying 3 relays at the district level and possibly break into the medal standings in an event(s). Just missed last year, placing 9th in the 200 free relay."
Coach: Cynthia Lyons, 7th year
Last year: 6-4 overall, 6-1 Mid-Penn Keystone Division
Current record: 1-1 overall, 1-0 Keystone Division
Key graduation losses: None
Top returners/newcomers: Teag Culver (Sr.), Tanner Yaw (Sr.), Joshua Wakefield (Sr.), Ryan James (Soph.)
Outlook: The Cougars suffered no graduation losses and with the help of last season's success doubled their roster from 10 to 20, so expectations for a strong season are definitely in the air.
"We're really lucky because we doubled our boys' team this year," Lyons said. "The nice thing about that is we're able to fill all the lanes, and that was a problem for us last year. We had some quality swimmers, we just couldn't fill the lanes at meets. Sometimes that's why you lose meets. So this year we've kept our quality swimmers, and, quite frankly, added a wide range of talent."
Coach: Beth Yocum, 14th year
Last year: 8-5, 2-3 Section One
Current record: 3-1 overall, 0-0 in Section One
Key graduation losses: Caroline Gelgot, Kelsey Lyter, Anna Moffitt
Top returners/newcomers: Lynn Collins (Sr.), Jaclyn Bord (Jr.), Caitlyn Gelgot (Jr.), Bri Shay (So.), Megan Weik (So.), Katie Mowery (Fr.), Krysta Weik (Fr.)
Outlook: The Falcons enjoyed a solid 2014-15 season and are well on their way to perhaps bettering that or at the very least reaching the goal of another winning record.
"Our goal is to continue with last season’s success in our overall record and stay above a .500 season," Yocum said. "We would also like to move up the ladder at the league meet as a team and medal in more events than the previous season. Then continue that success and qualify for the district meet in more than 1 relay and have more swimmers qualify individually."
Coach: Cynthia Lyons, 7th year
Last year: 9-1 overall, 7-0 Mid-Penn Keystone Division
Current record: 2-0 overall, 1-0 Keystone Division
Key graduation losses: Peyten Lyons, Bri Urich
Top returners/newcomers: Ellie Keck (Soph.), Maddie Wolfe (Soph.), Kate Hess (Jr.), Abbey Hess (Jr.), Katie Keck (Sr.), Karly Bruce (Soph.)
Outlook: The Cougars said goodbye to two high-caliber competitors in Lyons, now swimming at Ursinus College, and Urich, who's continuing her diving career at UNC-Wilmington, but the cupboard is far from bare for the four-time defending Keystone Division champs.Sophomore Ellie Keck leads the way after earning a berth in the state meet last season.
"They're obviously always looking for another division title," Coach Lyons said. "We really had some success (last season), even with our move to AAA. We ended the season pretty well with some fast swims at districts last year. That capped a really good season for the girls, so our goals don't change. "