There’s the physical drive. And then there’s the mental drive.

Lebanon senior swimmer Will Parker has put in numerous hours in the car because of the first part.

As for the latter part, it’s what has helped make him a champion swimmer.

And he’s not done yet, hoping to add to an already impressive resume over the course of the next few weeks.

Parker’s path to more success in the pool begins with this weekend’s District Three swimming championships at Cumberland Valley High School. Action gets underway at noon Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday, with Class 3A boys beginning at 5 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday. Only the champion earns an automatic berth in states.

Parker is seeded first in the 100 breaststroke in 55.75 and fourth in the 50 free in 21.29 for districts.

After districts and before states is a trip to the 2024 Tyr Pro Swim Series Chicago event March 6-9 at FMC Natatorium in Westmont, Illinois. The Pro Series is a long course (50-meter pool as opposed to 25-yard pool for high school meets) event where swimmers can achieve times to qualify for the upcoming Olympic Trials June 15-23 in Indianapolis. The FMC Natatorium is considered one of the fastest pools in the country. Parker will swim the 100-meter breaststroke and 50-meter freestyle.

Following the PIAA championships March 13-16 at Bucknell University, with Class 3A events Wednesday and Thursday, is a trip to the 2024 YMCA National short course meet April 2-6 at Greensboro Aquatic Center in Greensboro, North Carolina.

“Will knows what he can handle, and he will be prepared (for all of those meets),’’ said John Nelson, who coaches Parker at the York YMCA, during a phone interview while driving home from practice. “We talk with all the kids and we give them a lot of autonomy to pick their events. He, like all the kids, puts in a lot of work both now and throughout the season to handle multiple meets. The work they put in during the season will begin to pay off now.’’

“I think I’m ready,’’ Parker said during an interview at Lebanon High School in February. “I know I’ve put in the work.’’

The work comes from the thousands of yards covered and the hours in the pool. And the hours just getting to the pool.

A typical day, Parker said, goes from leaving his house at 7:15 in the morning, attending school, driving from Lebanon to York, going through practice, driving home from York and getting back to Lebanon around 8:15 at night. That’s a 13-hour day, almost every week day. Then there is practice on Saturday from 8 to 11:30 a.m., too, along with that commute.

“He has to drive it every day himself, and that’s not easy to go that far for just for a workout,’’ Nelson said. “He drives the extra miles to get that done. That’s a reflection of his desire and work ethic.’’

Parker used to make that drive with former teammate Carlos Hildago, and said he got interested in the York Y program from his friendship with former Cedar Crest state champion Logan Smith, who won the PIAA Class 3A 100-yard breaststroke title in 56.05 seconds in 2022.

Hildago is now a freshman doing well at St. Bonaventure, and Parker recently committed to attend the same university. Parker said he will receive a very nice partial athletic scholarship, with the potential for more money depending on how his career progresses. He said he’s prepared for the college grind, both athletically and academically. He said he was named a Scholastic All-American after his junior season with a 3.7 grade-point average, an honor bestowed on fewer than 1,000 high school swimmers.

But college is still in the future. Right now, he’s making the most of his final season of scholastic swimming.

Parker won his second straight 100-yard breaststroke title at the Lancaster-Lebanon League championships, clocking in at 55.79 seconds this year after going 57.40 in 2023. He also won the league 50 freestyle title in 21.29, after finishing second in 2023 in 21.75 behind Hildago. In 2022, he was second in the breaststroke in 58.52 and third in the 200 individual medley in 2:00.94. He was seventh in the breaststroke in 1:02.99 as a freshman. Although Lebanon doesn’t field a team in the league, its swimmers are permitted to compete in the championships

He took silver as a sophomore and junior in the District Three Class 3A 100 breaststroke in 57.59 last year and 57.35 two years ago. Crest’s Smith won it in 56.05 in 2022. Parker was ninth in the 50 free in 21.75 as a junior ad 10thin the 200 IM in 2:00.93 as a sophomore.

He grabbed the fifth-place medal in 56.31 at states last year in the 100 breaststroke, and was 19th in the 50 free in 21.60.

“I think that districts and, hopefully, states are my time to shine,’’ Parker said.

Parker’s success in the 50 free is more easily understandable than his accomplishments in breaststroke. He has the tall, lean build of a sprinter, whereas breaststrokers are often more compact. He said he built up his power through working with Lebanon strength coach Nick Watt, and using an “assault bike” where he pushes and pulls with his arms while pedaling with his legs.

“It’s a really intense workout. I feel that when I’m done,’’ Parker said. “Mr. Watt has helped me with my strength, power, stability.’’

While the upper body is more noticeable in freestyle, it’s also important in breaststroke, despite breaststroke being the one of the four main strokes (freestyle, butterfly, backstroke) that is powered more by legs than arms.

“Breast is rear-wheel driven,’’ said Nelson. “It needs upper body, but it’s more about the legs. Will’s forte is more in the upper body.’’

As one area club swim coach pointed out, you really need flexibility in your knees and ankles, and if you can turn your toes out 90-degrees from your hips, you are at a real advantage. The propulsion from your feet comes from holding onto the water on the instep of your foot.

Parker has that flexibility, and it doesn’t seem to have come from just swimming. Some of it may have been inherited from his mother, who was a gymnast, and his father, who played football and baseball. Parker also played baseball (pitcher, third baseman, outfielder) and ran cross country until deciding to concentrate on swimming.

He also seems to have a keen sense of his strengths and weaknesses in his strokes. While the 50 free is an all-out sprint, the breaststroke is more nuanced.

He said he knows he needs to improve on getting an explosive start, and that his walls – the three turns in the breaststroke race – aren’t up to his expectations. “I’m a little slow on the turn, and my streamline could use some work,’’ he said.

But Nelson isn’t that worried about that aspect. “The start and the turns, at this point, aren’t as important as the rest of the technique,’’ he said. “We work on sharpening those skills, but it’s a small fraction in a one-minute race. The technique, keeping the body in line, the timing of not kicking too soon or too late, those are keys.’’

There’s also the ability of Parker to frame a race in his mind. He describes himself as outgoing and friendly, and said you will often find him in the midst of swimmers from other teams between events during competitions.

“Mentally, I think he does a nice job of believing in himself,’’ Nelson said. “Will is a really good kid. Smart. He’s very passionate about the sport. He continues to improve. I appreciate his maturity and responsibility. He’s just a good athlete to teach.’’

And it appears that Parker has learned those lessons quite well. He’s going to have a packed schedule to fulfill over the course of the next month to put what he’s learned into practice.

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