When John Stupey and Liam Sosinsky stand next to each other, the two Kamiak High School swimmers don’t appear to have much in common.
Stupey is tall with broad shoulders that make one think he’d be more comfortable on the football field than in the pool. Sosinsky is much shorter and has a more slight build that would make one think he … well … swims.
Sosinsky has been swimming almost nonstop since before he could walk. Stupey swam for two years as a kid, then quit. He picked the sport up again in high school.
Kamiak swim coach Chris Erickson sees the two as a serious contrast outside of the pool.
“(Liam is) very serious, where John is more light hearted,” the coach said.
Sosinsky is a master of the breaststroke while Stupey’s best marks come in the backstroke or butterfly.
In the water, they do share one important trait: They both fly.
“They definitely are our highest-ranked individuals,” Erickson said. “They are both really hard working and both are very, very focused on the sport of swimming.”
Thanks to countless hours practicing for both the defending 4A state champion Knights and their club swim teams, Sosinsky and Stupey, both juniors, have Kamiak poised to put up a strong defense of its state title, and each is considered a contender for an individual state crown.
In the 4A regional meet last weekend, both won individual events and broke Kamiak school records. Sosinsky swam the 200-yard individual medley in 1 minute 58.66 seconds and Stupey broke his own mark in the 100 backstroke, finishing in 54.29 seconds.
The streaking duo travel to Federal Way’s King County Aquatic Center on Friday seeking their first individual state crowns.
A year ago, Sosinsky was second in the 100 breast to Eastlake’s Zach Alleva, now a senior, by .08 seconds. Stupey was sixth in the 100 back.
“I want to go there and I want to swim fast and win something,” Stupey said.
For a while the state swim meet was the last place Stupey thought he would find himself.
After giving up swimming at the age of 12, he tried wrestling, football, track, even golf. Stupey played football and track during his freshman year at Kamiak, but something wasn’t quite right. He never felt fast on land.
“I’m not a very fast runner,” Stupey said. “It’s nice to think I’m fast at something. I’m a fast swimmer. It’s a lot of fun just feeling the water and the pressure you can put on it. It feels like you are gliding through air. Just the weightlessness and speed you feel.”
Erickson, who also coaches swimmers of all ages as program director of the South Snohomish County Dolphins, didn’t have any expectations for Stupey when Stupey joined the high school team his freshman year. But the past two years changed that.
“He enjoyed that high school experience and he started swimming in the offseason and every month or two I’d hear John got a bunch of best times,” Erickson said. “This has been going on for a couple years now. He hasn’t stopped yet.”
Last summer Stupey reached a level of swimming excellence that surprised even him.
“I never expected that I’d be on my club team making junior nationals my sophomore year and things like that,” Stupey said. “I never thought of it. I just wanted to contribute to the team and make it to state.”
Now state isn’t even Stupey’s biggest goal. He hopes to swim in college at least at the NCAA Division II level.
For Sosinsky, though, swimming success was never a surprise. When his family moved to Edmonds from New York when he was 9 months old, Liam’s mother, Colleen, enrolled her son in a “Baby and Me” class at the Mountlake Terrace pool. She got him individual lessons to get acquainted with water for safety and survival skills. Colleen, who never swam much herself, didn’t expect Liam to take to the water so easily.
“He was just really fast,” Colleen said. “They used to call him ‘Speedy’ when he was continuing with his lessons at 4 and 5. They were like, ‘Oh, look at little speedy,’ because he was always doing his laps the fastest.”
Liam tried out to swim for the Dolphins — for Erickson — when he was 8 and ever since then he’s been a top club swimmer, though, he has since switched to a club in Bellevue.
The change of location for club practice has made logistics tougher and puts more miles on Colleen’s car, but she and he both said it’s worth it.
“I spend my life kind of shuttling him around but it’s my pleasure because he’s such a good kid,” Colleen said. “He works really hard.”
Liam’s hard work was no more evident than during the January snowstorm that closed Kamiak — and its pool — for a week. He walked 3 miles up and down hills each day to get to and from the YMCA pool in Mukilteo.
“I felt it was important to keep my training up,” Liam said. “When you put so much into a sport, you can’t just let it go.”
Sosinsky trains at a level higher than most of his teammates because his goals are higher than just a state title.
“My main focus isn’t necessarily on state,” Liam said. “I do want to win the 100 breaststroke at state. It’s something that I’ve been going for my whole high school career, but I’m actually trying to make Olympic trials this year (swimming) in meters.”
Liam has modeled his career after former Snohomish great Garren Reichel, who won the state crown in the 100 breaststroke while at Snohomish and earned a scholarship to Stanford.
Sosinsky and Stupey swim together on powerful relays for Kamiak but the Knights best two swimmers don’t go head-to-head much because of their different stroke specialties. That doesn’t keep them from getting a bit competitive, however, thanks to the 200 individual medley.
“When we swim the 200 IM, it’s a really nice race because it’s a competitive race,” Sosinsky said. “It’s a nice way to compare maybe our progress compared to each other. Because it’s all four events, so it’s a good judgment sort of race.”
They take turns beating each other depending on the day, which can be a good experience because no one else usually can.