When trying something new, most people ease into it by getting their toes wet and testing the waters; however, Friendswood Junior High seventh-grader Tony Laurito dives in head first to the things he loves.
At just five years old, Laurito began swimming competitively. It was obvious from early on that he had a natural talent for the sport, but as the years passed, Laurito made a name for himself winning competition after competition.
“I’ve only personally known him for a few weeks here, but I’ve known of him for years,” P.J. Givens, FJH swim coach, said. “At USA meets, he’s one of those kids who catches your eye because he stands out.”
Laurito has caught a wave of attention from people everywhere as he has earned top titles in state and national meets, is a record-holder in the 400 IM, holds the top time for his age in the state of Texas, and has a top three time in the nation. Laurito also competes in the AAAA division, the most competitive division based on qualifying times.
“If you watch [Laurito] by himself, you don’t think he’s going very fast because he’s just so smooth, it looks easy – like he’s barely even swimming, but if you put anyone against him, he’s blowing them away because he’s moving so much faster than them,” Givens said. “It’s effortless. There’s no struggle, but he had the work to get there.”
A day in the life of Laurito includes a 6-7:30 a.m. school swim practice, class from 8:45-3:53, getting home around 4:50, leaving for club swim practice at 5:45, practicing for two hours, getting home after 8:00, eating dinner, then sitting down to work on homework/study at nine. It is a busy, demanding life, but Laurito said has balanced it flawlessly.
“I’ve made a lot of sacrifices, but it’s worth it because it’s really fun,” Laurito said.
Despite all of his success with his academics and swim, Laurito stays focused on the small things because he said: “those matter the most.”
“I always try to push myself to my limit,” Laurito said. “Outside of practice, I do dryland – which is more physical stuff like running, then inside the pool, I work on technique and use that in my races and try to improve to get faster.”
His efforts are recognized by his coaches.
“He’s a great, hard-working kid,” Givens said. “He never thinks anything is below him even though he’s the fastest one in the pool.”
Even though his amazing speeds make him seem super-human, Laurito said he gets nervous before his races, just like everyone else.
“I get on the block and I feel super nervous and jittery,” Laurito said. “When they say ‘take your mark,’ I have to hold still, but when I get in, it’s like a burst of adrenaline and I just have to focus on technique and pushing myself.”
His drive to be better has caused his teammates to look up to him.
“With Tony succeeding this early, it’s because of ability and hard work,” Givens said.
“He’s a leader who leads by example.”
Though Laurito is a leader to many of his teammates, he finds inspiration in the leaders who came before him. When asked who inspires him most, Laurito did not immediately answer with the names of well-known Olympic athletes but instead listed former and current Friendswood High School swimmers Cole Cragin, Max Hardt, Mark Theall and Olivia Theall.
Laurito said he hopes to be a part of the FHS swim team one day and follow in their footsteps before going to swim for his dream-school, Texas A&M University.
“I hope he gets all of his goals,” Givens said. “You expect a drop-off sometimes with kids who have success early because it comes naturally to them, but with Tony, you know he has the hard-work to back it up.”