Swimmers and divers across the state will be making a splash this weekend at the Wyoming 4A State Swimming and Diving meet in Gillette.
I had the opportunity to chat with Rock Springs Tiger swimmer Richard Wegner who is attending the meet as a reserve in the 100 breaststroke. He has made a splash this year.
I decided to devote my column this week to Wegner not only because it’s the state swim meet this weekend, but because of his unique story and the lesson he taught me while we conversed in a humid swimming pool office. (I’m not sure if he or I were more soaked by the end of our conversation.)
Wegner is a foreign-exchange student from Kiel, Germany. When I first met the 16-year-old German swimmer, I caught on quickly to his humor, positive attitude and willingness to seek out change.
Wegner came to Wyoming in August of 2019 and will remain in the Cowboy State with his host family until June of this year. He’s part of a foreign exchange program that encourages students to immerse themselves in other cultures. If there is one thing you should know about this young man, it’s his love for knowledge and experiences. Almost immediately, he threw himself into some interesting learning situations, such as joining the football program and learning how to play the American sport.
When football season ended, Wegner decided to jump back into the swimming pool. Back in Germany he had swam, but gave it up due to other commitments like his education. As he explained it, swimming in Germany is more about competing against time and yourself rather than competing as an actual team.
Wegner’s efforts during the regular season yielded him three seconds shy of qualifying for the 4A swim meet in the 100 breaststroke. But RSHS head swim coach David Galindo recognized his hard work and gave him the nod to go to state as an alternate.
Galindo’s choice to take Wegner is a powerful reminder that you never know where you may end up. Although you may not be the fastest in the pool, your heart and effort will get you to where you want to be.
“He earned it,” Galindo said. “Flat out he earned it.”
While he won’t be swimming at the state meet unless called upon, Wegner has still come away victorious, possibly even more victorious than the team who will hoist the state title this weekend. He told me that his experience with the swim team has been something he’s never been a part of before. He’s felt a part of the brotherhood that makes up the Tigers swim team.
I asked Galindo how he meshed with the team at the beginning of the season. His response was that Wegner was immediately a part of the team and had no trouble earning approval from his teammates.
“You don’t succeed without ambition. You’ve got to stick with it and don’t give up. That was really hard for me. Jumping from football where I didn’t really have to play and nobody had to rely on me because I was just learning it,” Wegner said. “But in swimming you’re relied upon your ability to swim fast. Everyone is screaming at you. At first that was pressure but also team spirit. It’s something I’ve never seen before. I was so impressed.”
Wegner taught me that the power of the team comes from both the individual and the team itself. As much as the team has had an impact on him, he’s unknowingly had the same influence on other members of his team whether he realizes it or not. Then I realized that most of us are part of a team. As I left my conversation with Wegner earlier this week, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own influence on others and the team’s influence on me.
Team spirit is a force. It’s either something you create or find.
Like Wegner, don’t be afraid to make your splash.
Brayden is a sports and community reporter for SweetwaterNOW. You can submit comments, questions or ideas regarding Sweetwater County sports to email@example.com.