Following his junior year, Hopkinsville swimmer Bryce Robinson was unsure if he’d get another crack at the state tournament on a relay team due to the lack of other male swimmers on the team.
With Zack Gugle joining the mix along with him, Chase Atkins and Bryce Hanson, Robinson helped push a relay team with a first-year swimmer back to the state tournament, as well as a come-from-behind win in at the Region One Swim meet.
“At state last year with all the seniors, I was talking to my mom and we kind of felt that it was my last really big state meet with super fast relays — we just didn’t think we were going to have enough guys this year,” Robinson said. “Going from thinking that at the end of last season to the end of this season having all four of us swim and the two relays and how well we did in those was really great and kind of unexpected.”
Robinson not only anchored the relay races to the state meet but also qualified for two individual races in Lexington this year. His performances this year made him the 2020 Toyota of Hopkinsville Southern Pennyrile Boys’ Swimming Athlete of the Year.
Robinson said this year has been wild and he didn’t even realize it was over until after the fact.
“It’s definitely been kind of a crazy year,” Robinson said. “It didn’t really hit until it was all over. It felt like a normal year, then it wasn’t.”
Coming into the year, Robinson was one of three boys on the entire swim team along with Hanson and Atkins.
After swimming in the relays at state the year prior, Robinson thought his days of swimming in relays at the highest level were over.
Once Gugle joined the team, Robinson said one of the biggest challenges was improving and getting to a high level with the new team.
“Going into the year, we knew that we weren’t going to have many boys on the team because we had so many seniors on the team last season,” he said. “We weren’t really sure we were going to have a relay, much less have a good relay that we could qualify for state in both events which we ended up having. It was really great that we ended up having Zack as our fourth person. That was kind of a challenge we overcame pretty quickly.”
When on the biggest stage, the relay team didn’t disappoint.
With Robinson on the final leg, the four Tiger swimmers qualified for the state meet in both relay races they competed in, including a thrilling 400-yard freestyle relay where they needed to come from behind to win it.
Robinson said after the team fell behind early, the middle legs fought them back into the race and even got him the lead. He knew what to do from there.
“One of the nice things about having a smaller region is we kind of know all the other swimmers,” he said. “We’re behind the blocks, we’re kind of looking at the other relays seeing who’s going first and second and third in those lineups. So we knew even before the race started that we were going to be behind after that first leg and that we were going to have to make it up.
“With how fast Bryce went in the second leg and Chase went in the third leg got us a good couple second lead, I felt pretty good going into that last leg. At the same time, we had one of the fastest kids in our region next to me. I knew that I really had to book it on that last 50.”
Now, that race will be a memory Robinson will never forget.
“Just how close we were and coming from behind, that was just a really great relay,” he said. “Probably one of my favorite swim memories.”
The team finished fourth in the region as a team, as Robinson’s performances both in the team races and as an individual, helped Hoptown finish as high as they did.
Robinson competed in the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard breaststroke at state.
He said he didn’t have any goals coming into the year other than just to continue improving and he felt he did just that.
“Swimming, your goal is always to be better than you were. You’re competing with everyone else, but you’re also competing with yourself and what you’ve done in the past,” he said. “I don’t know that I had any firm goals going into the year other than just improving which I was able to do. I was happy with how I was performing at the end of the season.”
Header: All-KNE Boys’ Swim Team
Bryce Robinson, Hopkinsville
Chase Atkins, Hopkinsville
Bryce Hanson, Hopkinsville
Dalton Bahr, Christian Co.
Holden Starz, Fort Campbell
Will Gunter, Fort Campbell
Jonah Weisbrich, Fort Campbell
CJ Hay, Fort Campbell