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Swimming-created work ethic helps Cole Akal win Lynch Scholarship
TCAY swimmer awardedJohn E. Lynch Scholarship
Pete Hayes, firstname.lastname@example.org Updated 8:42 pm, Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Tri-City Area Tidalwaves and Alton high swimmer Cole Akal recently won the YMCA Swimming Heartland Area John E. Lynch Senior Swimmer Scholarship. Akal will attend Missouri S&T next fall. Photo: File Photo
Tri-City Area Tidalwaves and Alton high swimmer Cole Akal recently won the YMCA Swimming Heartland Area John E. Lynch Senior Swimmer Scholarship. Akal will attend Missouri S&T next fall.
TCAY Tidalwaves swimmer Cole Akal said ‘Y’ swimming has helped him develop a strong work ethic. That notion, in part, led to him winning the John E. Lynch Senior Swimmer Scholarship through YMCA Swimming’s Heartland Area.
“I was surprised,” said Akal, who’s practicing for next week’s YMCA Short Course Nationals in Greensboro, North Carolina. “It’s a great honor and I’m very grateful.”
The scholarship is for $500 a year and is for all four years.
“At the regional meet we hosted, my coach (Nancy Miller) told me about the scholarship,” Akal said. “Basically, you fill out the application and answer questions about how YMCA Swimming has affected your life.”
Evidently the scholarship committee liked what Akal had to say.
“Seniors in the area were invited to apply with their academic credentials and extra curriculars,” Miller said. “What Cole wrote was very impressive.”
Akal, who will graduate from Alton High School this spring, will attend Missouri Science and Technology in Rolla next fall and major in mechanical engineering. He’s unsure if he’ll swim at S&T, however. The work ethic the sport created also helped shape his ability to prioritize.
“I don’t know if I could swim and also be able to handle the work load in the classroom,” Akal said.
Whether he swims or not, Akal has done more than his fair share of laps since he started summer competitive swimming at age 7 at the Summers-Port pool in Godfrey. From there, he added year-round swimming with the Tri-City area YMCA Tidalwaves.
The TCAY team is based in Godfrey, uses the YMCA charter from the former YMCA in Granite City and practices at Principia College in Elsah, as well as at Lewis and Clark Community College. That spread-out approach hasn’t fazed Akal.
“Swimming has really shaped me,” he said. “It gives you self-motivation and it can also help make leaders.”
As a freshman at AHS, Akal found himself next in line to step into a captain’s role with the Tidalwaves.
“I wouldn’t say I’m shy,” Akal said, “but I’m not a rah-rah type.”
Instead, he leads by example. And it’s a good example.
At Alton High, Akal, along with his brother Caden and other teammates Noah Clancy, Matt Daniel teamed up to qualify for the IHSA Boys State Meet this season. They advanced to state in the 200-yard medley relay and the 200-yard freestyle relay. His brother Caden also advanced to state in the 100 freestyle and 50 freestyle. Daniel made t in the 100 butterfly and 200 freestyle and Clancy in the 100 backstroke.
The four honed their skills with the Tidalwaves, however. They’re teaming up at the nationals for the 400 freestyle relay, 400 medley relay, 200 freestyle relay and 200 medley relay.
Cole also qualified as an individual for the nationals in the 100 freestyle and 50 freestyle.
“It’s work, but it pays off,” he said. “I’ve had good coaching and very supportive teammates.”
Akal is also a right-handed pitcher for the Alton High baseball team. But he admits swimming is his No. 1 love.
“Swimming is like no other sport you can think of,” he said. “No other sport asks to sprint - and hold your breath when you’re doing it.”