Port Washington swimming’s Apat needs his lungs for the pool, and on deck

Port Washington swimming’s Apat needs his lungs for the pool, and on deck
Port Washington senior Joe Apat is looking to make the state meet for the second time, this winter. Photo credit: The Apat family.

The screams were so loud. So, so loud.

Two years ago during one of the Port Washington swim team’s meets, an 8th-grader was in the middle of a race when he stopped his arm and leg movements for a second and looked up.

“What in the world is all that racket?” he wondered. “Who is shouting so loud it could wake the dead?”

What that 8th grader didn’t know is that the source of all that noise was his teammate.
Joseph Apat is as energetic on the pool deck as he in the water, churning through the H2O and never getting tired.

“He actually stopped and looked up and had this look on his face like ‘who is this lunatic and why is he screaming so loud?'” Apat recalled recently, laughing. “I think everyone in the pool for that race was shocked because they’d never heard anyone cheering that loud.”

His lungs never get tired while rooting on his teammates, either, because Apat believes whether you’re the best swimmer on the team (him) or just starting out, a little support can make a lot of difference.

“My feeling is, a majority of the time when you swim you won’t swim your best time,” Apat said. “And if you have people cheering for you, even if you’re not hitting your best time, you will go faster.

“And swimming is kind of an isolating sport, you’re all by yourself in the water,” Apat continued. “So by cheering on your teammates, it makes the sport feel a little less isolating.”

Port Washington head coach Joe Lennon marvels at the enthusiasm and friendliness of his senior distance competitor.

“He’s the mayor of the pool when we go to these big meets,” Lennon said. “He knows everyone and has a good word for everyone.”

When he’s not glad-handing and cheering, Apat is pretty darn good in the water. A varsity athlete for the Vikings since 7th grade, he’s swam a variety of distances but has excelled at the longer races.

Last year as a junior he finished eighth in the 500-yard freestyle at the Nassau County championships, in 4:57.15, but swam faster at the state qualifier, clocking a 4:52.31.

At the state meet Apat finished 28th in his first time there, in 4:53.66.

“He’s one of the kids with the endurance of an Energizer Bunny, you just get him started and he goes and goes,” Lennon said. “When we had him doing the 200 IM, we noticed he was getting stronger toward the ends of the race, so we thought he could do a longer distance.”

Apat said people think distance swimming “is a lot harder than it actually is,” and said the key for him is only expending maximum energy when needed.

“I only start going fast when I see other people going ahead of me,” Apat said. “For the 500 free, you’re not thinking about using your legs as much as maybe in other races; you want to keep your heart rate low. And you don’t get as tired as you would think; in practice we do 5,000 yards a day, so 500 isn’t so bad.”

Apat began swimming around age 6, he said, and joined club team Long Island Express shortly after. He said he’s always been attracted water, whether it’s an ocean, a pool or anything else.

He trained and trained and thought he was ready for varsity by seventh grade, and after passing the physical tests required to be on varsity, began to excel. He’s been on varsity so long at Port Washington, current assistant coach Erick Zizic was a rival at Great Neck South when Apat was in seventh grade.

“The mental aspect of his swimming is really the strongest thing,” Lennon said. “Whether it’s on water or on land, his mindset carries him a long way. And he’s always such a positive kid that it rubs off on everyone.”

Apat isn’t sure in what events he’ll try to qualify for states this season, but definitely wants to make the national cut time for 200 breaststroke, which would qualify him for the National Club Swimming championships. He’d love to qualify in multiple events at states, before heading next fall to compete for Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, a Division 3 school.

“Looking at who graduated in my events, I think I have a really good chance to make states again,” Apat said. “I also really want to get our varsity relay to states, that would be awesome.”

Get some earplugs, other state competitors. Apat might hit Boeing 747-level noise if that happens.

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