Nothing can reveal a swimmer’s flaws like a 50- or 100-yard sprint.
But that’s precisely what Poolesville High School junior Xavier Laracuente relishes about short-distance races, he said. It forces him to focus.
“It’s high intensity, you’ve just got to get up and be energized. In longer events you have a chance to catch up. In a 100, one wrong turn and that’s one fourth of the race. I like that you have to be technical [in short races],” Laracuente said.
The defending Maryland Class 3A/2A/1A state 100-yard freestyle champion, Laracuente seemed quite technically sound while breaking four meet records during Poolesville’s second straight Class 3A/2A/1A West Region win on Saturday. Laracuente set new region marks in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle and was part of the record-setting 200- and 400-yard freestyle relays.
He should contend in all four events at this weekend’s state championship meet as the Falcons go for their second straight state crown.
Poolesville coach Johnny Leong said he hopes performances like Saturday’s will help Laracuente truly realize just how talented he is.
“He is definitely an upper echelon swimmer, but I don’t think he realizes how much potential he has, I don’t think he thinks of himself as a pinnacle swimmer. Not that he doesn’t have confidence in himself, he of course does. You always want your kids to be respectful and focused, but you do want them to have that little bit of attitude, just a flare of arrogance,” Leong said.
But it’s also Laracuente’s humbleness and respect for his peers, Leong added, that make him such an asset to the Poolesville program.
While the primarily freestyle and butterfly swimmer is an integral part of everything the Falcons do — Laracuente said he is motivated by the pressure to score points — the team is always his priority, Leong said.
“He is a driving force for the team. But I don’t think he thinks about himself in the big picture at all. And not in a negative way. If I put him in the breaststroke and say, ‘You have to do this,’ he will. Whatever event I put him in, he will go out and do his best because he knows he has to for the team,” Leong said.
Added Laracuente: “Club meets have so many points, it doesn’t come down to that one single swim. But high school season, every point counts and you can actually see how you’re helping the team.”
Laracuente is quiet and mild-mannered, Leong said. But he doesn’t need to be the loudest person on deck to prove his passion for swimming, it’s evident the second his body touches the water.
But it wasn’t always that way. In fact, if Laracuente had his way, he might not even be a competitive swimmer at all.
When Laracuente was 12, his younger brother Gabriel broke his arm in a playground accident. Swimming was recommended to aid the recovery process and the elder Laracuente was dragged along to the Rockville-Montgomery Swim Club tryouts against his will.
“I did not want to try out at all, I didn’t want to do year-round swimming. That was the only time my mom ever forced me to swim,” Laracuente said.
He is glad she did, though, he added.
Leong was the coach of that RMSC group. And immediately saw a natural gift. Internally driven and competitive by nature, it didn’t take long for Laracuente to embrace the aquatic sport, which rewards athletes for their hard work. And Laracuente, who has been with the Nation’s Capital Swim Club since the summer, is the hardest of workers, Leong said.
“He races very well. He’s a strong kid. He has a very high turnover for strokes, he’s excellent at kicking and he just does not like to lose. He will go out and he will race,” Leong said. “I don’t think he realizes he’s a top-notch swimmer. It’s just not his nature to be like, ‘Hey, look at me, I am the biggest and I am the best.’ But when we discuss relays and where we want to put him, [his teammates] always say to close with Xavier because they know he’s going to close it out.”