PENN LAIRD — For Evan Weakley, it didn’t just come naturally.
During his four years at Spotswood High School, the two-time state champion set numerous swimming records for the Trailblazers and showed continuous growth in the sport throughout.
Those accomplishments didn’t come without hard work, he said, as he recalled practicing daily — sometimes more than once per day — missing basketball games with friends and arriving at various social events late because of spending so much time in the pool.
“I’m hoping my legacy at Spotswood will show future swimmers and athletes that success does not just randomly happen,” Weakley said. “I think I had a fairly successful academic and athletic career at Spotswood. It was not easy, but it all paid off and looking back, I’m glad I made those sacrifices.”
It didn’t just pay off with state championship rings for Weakley, who won Virginia High School League Class 3 title in the 100-yard butterfly his junior year and followed that up with a first-place finish in the 50-yard freestyle race this past season.
In August, he’ll make the eight-hour drive to Indianapolis where he will attend the University of Indianapolis — a Division II school in the Great Lakes Valley Conference.
“I loved every aspect I saw,” Weakley said. “I’m very excited to go there and join the team. … It will all be very new to me. I’m hoping I can just excel in my classes as well as the pool.”
Swimming in college, especially at the Division II level, was a far-fetched dream less than five years ago when he first approached SHS coach Jarad Buckmaster as an eighth grader, he said.
Before then, Weakley had mostly trained with the Virginia Gators — a year-round recreational swimming team — but hadn’t swam in a lot of the distance races Buckmaster encouraged him to try.
“We would discuss together what his best events would be and where he would have the most success,” Buckmaster said. “Like any coach, I would continue to give him guidance on how to improve his technique and endurance.”
Weakley said he’ll continue training with the Gators this summer, noting that there “isn’t really an offseason,” and will swim in the Valley Swim League Championships in July.
“It’s been really cool to see how far he has come,” said Spotswood Dolphins coach Julia Sheffer, who grew up with Weakley. “He really peaked in high school. He just took off. … It’s really cool to watch.”
Before he heads off to Indy in the fall, Weakley couldn’t help but reflect on his time with the Trailblazers, specifically the relationships he formed with both his teammates and his coaches.
“This past season was definitely special to me,” he said. “Swimming for high school is where I really got started with my swimming career and realized that I wanted to take it to the next level and compete so my last season was very special.”
Buckmaster called Weakley a “shy, goofy personality” outside of the pool and a person who has a “real kind heart toward others as well.”
Not only did the Spotswood coach speak highly of Weakley’s character, but also his unique abilities in the pool.
“As with any elite athlete, it takes a combination of things to make them as good as they are,” Buckmaster said. “Evan was certainly blessed with being tall with long arms that have helped him to be as good as he is. His hard work and dedication, though, is what makes him as good as he is. He does an excellent job of setting reasonable goals and making sure that he does what he needs to do to achieve those goals.”
Weakley’s goals have changed each year as he said he’s continued to improve each season, despite the growth slowing down recently as he’s become more elite.
“A lot of my success originally was just from untapped potential and me learning how to race, but now I think it’s from the grind that I’ve been doing the past two and a half years,” Weakley said. “There is barely any time off and I’ve been working hard at it nonstop and it has definitely paid off.”
Weakley said his love for swimming didn’t start until the eighth grade and that despite his individual success, the relay races are what he enjoys the most about the sport.
“There’s a totally different atmosphere during the relays with all your teammates and all the other teams around,” Weakley said.
The individual success is what will stand out in the Spotswood record book, however, and why Bucksmater said Weakley goes down as the most accomplished male swimmer in Trailblazers history.
That’s something that does come natural for Weakley — an appreciation of the legacy he leaves behind at SHS and what it does for future swimmers.
According to him, that’s what made all the hard work worth it.
“I hope my legacy at Spotswood will show others that success is not just showing up to class or practice just to be there,” Weakley said, “but to show up and truly put in effort to do what you want and be what you want to be.”