ST. PETERSBURG — Shorecrest's John Farese stays wet and busy at swim meets, bouncing from freestyle events to the backstroke.
The senior, who recently committed to Florida, has vaulted from the middle of the pack to the podium, finishing fifth in the 100 free and second in the 100 back at last year's Class A state meet.
He has surged ahead to become a leading contender for state titles in both events thanks to an intense training regimen that has him spending endless hours in the pool.
But that unwavering aquatic focus was not always there.
Farese's first love was triathlons because the sport combined the three things he loved to do as a kid: swim, ride his bike and run around.
He was participating in triathlons when he was 5 — he had to use training wheels during the bike portion.
Years later, Farese wanted to expand his athletic endeavors. He thought about playing football and gave serious consideration to running cross country as a sixth-grader.
Swimming, at least then, was more of an afterthought. He took lessons and trained for the swimming portion of triathlons at the Shore Acres Recreation Center, where he was coached by Patti Nardozzi, now coach at Shorecrest.
Nardozzi urged Farese to stick with swimming. He eventually decided it was his best route.
"My parents had reservations about me playing football, and I probably would have been killed," Farese said. "I liked swimming because there was an individual as well as a team aspect to it."
At first, Farese was limited to freestyle events, the stroke he was most accustomed to while training for the swimming portion of triathlons. His form, though, needed work.
"His head was still high above the water whenever he swam," Nardozzi said. "I think that had a lot to do with swimming in the open water."
It didn't take long to master the freestyle. Farese branched out to other strokes and became one of the most versatile swimmers in Shorecrest's program.
But he knew he was not reaching his full potential. To do that, he gave up triathlons.
"It was tough at first, but there were more scholarship opportunities in swimming, and I knew I would have to concentrate on the sport year-round to get where I needed to be," he said.
By concentrating on his technique in every moment of practice, Farese has produced stellar results. He had the top seed time (49.98) in the 100 back at last week's FSPA Invitational, where he finished second (51.27) in the event.
Farese is part of a loaded Chargers team that has swum for Nardozzi since middle school. Those veterans will try to help Shorecrest maintain their dominance at this weekend's Tampa Bay Classic, a meet that includes most private schools in the area and also crowns the Bay Conference boys and girls champions.
"John and Alex Grant I've had since they were in sixth grade," Nardozzi said. "They've practically grown up through the program. A lot of the others boys have been here a while, too. It's by far the best team I've had since I've been here."
Bob Putnam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BobbyHomeTeam.