Sean Zupko has always enjoyed swimming far.
After he graduates from Valley Central High School, he plans to swim further, after recently committing to swim for SUNY Cortland starting in the winter 2021-22 season.
“I like how they train long course and short course,” Zupko said. “I haven’t trained any long course yet. At Cortland, they’re able to because they have a 50-meter pool. That was something that really intrigued me because I want to swim more long course, which is a different type of swimming.”
Swimming at the collegiate level will give him the opportunity to try his hand at the 1,650-yard freestyle.
He’s been at his best in the 500-yard freestyle, where he has won the last two Section 9 championships. He posted his best 500 time of Feb. 27 at the virtually held Section 9 championships with a time of 4:42.26, nearly nine seconds ahead of his nearest competition.
“He gets mentally prepared for the event,” Valley Central coach Scott Warner said. “You go to other kids you tell them, or they see they’re in the 500, it’s kind of like ‘oh my God, what did I do wrong?’ He would be a little upset if he wasn’t in the 500. It goes totally the other way.”
Zupko finishes his career all over the Section 9 rankings. Sometimes lost in with all his freestyle success is his ability to swim the backstroke, which he swam at the virtual Section 9 championship on Feb. 27, finishing second with a time of 55.61.
He’s ranked fifth in the 200-yard individual medley, posting a 2:06.09 on Feb. 11. He’s ranked sixth in the 200-yard freestyle, posting his season best 1:50.19 on Jan. 29, and eighth in the 100-yard freestyle, posing a 51.04 on Feb. 11.
“As he got a little older, he wanted to experiment and try some other events,” Warner said. “The backstroke was one of them. He’s a decent freestyle sprinter, but he just went after the distance.”
He’ll be joining a Red Dragons team that has finished second in the 2020 SUNY Athletic Conference championships, after posting a 4-8 dual meet record. He’ll swim for Brian Tobin, who would have entered his 19th season, having led the Red Dragons to a 152-94 record during that time. The Red Dragons have finished in the SUNYAC top three 14 times for both the men and women in that time.
Zupko is planning a double major in physics and chemistry with an eye toward being a high school chemistry teacher, but it was the swim team that drew his attention first.
“The coach there has been really trying his best to make sure that I knew everything about the program there, and I started to meet some of the team,” Zupko said. “I really like the dynamic there. I really like all the other people that have committed that are going and joining the swim team.”
It’s a dynamic more in line with what he knows from his time with the Vikings. He also swims with the New York Sharks, based out of Goshen, a club team that was more competitive due to the COVID-19 pandemic as it was one of the only clubs operating.
“I love the VC team,” Zupko said. “I’m so glad that I got that sort of dynamic of what a team really is and what it should be.”