Nick Alexiou burst onto the county scene a year ago with an exhilarating performance at the Pinellas County Athletic Conference meet, breaking a 19-year record in the 200-yard freestyle and shaving 11 seconds off his time from the preliminaries to set a record in the 500 free.
This season has not produced as many eye-popping moments.
Sure, the Clearwater senior has dominated his events, lowering his record-setting time in the 200 free (from 1:39.31 to 1:39.09) and winning the 100 free at the conference meet. But Alexiou is focused less on strong debuts and more on the end results.
Last year, despite some impressive times, Alexiou was unable to come home with a state title. He finished second in the 200 free and was disqualified in the 500 free because of false start. He also had the misfortune of being in the same classification (3A) as Sarasota
Riverview’s Nicholas Caldwell, who won both events and holds a state-record time in the 500 (4:17.29).
“Winning states is all that matters,” Alexiou said. “Coming up short last year has been inspirational. It’s made me want to get back there and win. I lost to Caldwell, but he is an absolute animal in both events.”
Alexiou’s path to becoming a champion is easier now that Caldwell has graduated. But being a heavy favorite is not enough.
In the offseason, Alexiou swam a rigorous training schedule. At the Junior Nationals over the summer, Alexiou won the 200-meter freestyle in 1:50.34 to set the Florida long-course record.
He also does not have to worry about deciding where to attend college after committing to Virginia in September.
“It was really nice to get that out of the way and just concentrate on the high school season,” Alexiou said.
At the Florida Swimming Pool Association meet in Orlando this month, Alexiou won the 200 free in 1:37.82 and the 500 in 4:31.45. His time in the 200 was better than his state mark last season.
Alexiou said he can swim faster. He wants to try and break the state record of 1:35.81 set in 2000 by Clay Kirkland of Jacksonville Bolles and possibly the national record of 1:33.83 set three years ago by Tom Shields of Edison High in Huntington Beach, Calif.
“It would be pretty cool to get the state record in the 200 free because it’s one that has been around for a while,” Alexiou said. “The 500 free would be tough because Caldwell put up such a great time.
“But the most important thing is going there and winning.”