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Bubble Guppies: Koji Barrette
November 3, 2016
At 6:20 AM, Koji Barrette, CHS freshman, can be found lifting weights at Gay Field. Less than 12 hours later, Koji is hard at work in a rigorous two hour CHS swim practice. On top of that, Koji takes part in CSP, a competitive club swim team.
“Koji has been incredibly dedicated to swimming by spending so many hours practicing. It takes dedication to go to Shaw Park at 6:30 AM and practice for two hours six days a week all summer long.”
Ernie-Paul Barrette, Koji’s father said, “I think swimming has allowed Koji to gain the confidence to try new challenges and to be a leader. As a parent I am proud of his work and enjoy watching him compete.”
Ever since Koji started swim lessons at the age of six, he has worked his way to the top with dedication, determination and discipline.
“I’ve been swimming since I was six. I started swimming recreationally with a small summer team but then I decided to stay with it and do it year round,” Koji said.
At age 12 Koji qualified for Zones in the 200 freestyle. Zones is a very prestigious swimming competition that has the top two to four percent swimmers in the nation.
Despite all of Koji’s successes, there were things that he had to give up.
“In third grade, [Koji] stopped playing baseball, in fourth grade [Koji] stopped playing soccer, both of which were wonderful sports. We loved participating in the Clayton sports teams,” Ernie said. “It became clear that Koji wanted to focus on swimming as the main event. When practices started meeting six days a week, it was not possible to keep doing all three sports and attend the number of [swim] practices that were necessary for him to make the progress that he wanted to.”
These swim practices and meets took weekends, holidays and summer days away from Koji.
Yet this did not stop him from continuing his swimming career.
“I don’t think that Koji ever felt that those compromises were hard to make,” Ernie said.
Currently Koji is on the CHS boys’ swim team and is enjoying his first season as a Greyhound.
“High school swimming is a lot more of a team experience, we have more cheering for our teammates and we have a lot more spirit, not just as a high school, but as the CHS Greyhounds,” Koji said.
Koji is also a top swimmer on the team and has helped strengthen the team this season.
“Koji is an amazing long distance swimmer and scores a lot of points for us in the 500 and 200 free,” Tiger Chen, a captain of team, said. “With him, Matt Graham and Tristan Belzer, we have a very strong long distance corp that I don’t think would be nearly as strong without Koji.”
The main events Koji excels in are the 200 and 500 yard freestyle and Koji has been improving his times in these events throughout the season.
“My season’s been going great, I’ve been doing really well in [my] times,” Koji said.
At every meet, with the exception of two, Koji was able to snatch a first place in the 500 freestyle.
At the beginning of the season, the swim team was just happy to have a swimmer to earn first place at the meets.
“We have a much better team this year,” Wil Welch, fellow swimmer, said. “I think one of the reasons is because of Hutton and Koji. They have races that they swim really well. Koji swims the 500 and Hutton swims sprint freestyle. It is also impressive to see them both so close to state.”
As the season has progressed, the attitude have changed — the focus has turned more towards Koji’s ability to go to state.
“A lot of the people on the team have been pressuring me to practice harder in order to get to state,” Koji said. “And I’m starting to feel really confident because of their encouragement.”
Koji is an inspiration to other freshman and upperclassmen alike on the team.
Tiger Chen, CHS swim captain, recognizes Koji’s capabilities.
“Even though they are only freshmen, many people on the team still look up to them. They also both help encourage the older swimmers to swim faster and but more effort into practice in order to beat or keep up with them,” Chen said.
Not only has Koji grown as a swimmer in the pool, he’s grown as a person as well.
“I watch [Koji] struggle with difficult decisions like whether to join the elite squad at CSP, how to balance swimming for CHS with the expectations of his swim club and how to get all the homework done, especially for Mr. Rice, at the same time,” Barrette said.
“I was able to stick with CSP with a lot of stress throughout the past eight years and I feel like in high school it’s really going to be a lot,” Koji said. “But I want to be prepared to manage that.”
At the preliminary rounds of South Suburban Conference, Koji was able to fulfill his CHS dream of going to state after he qualified in the 500 freestyle setting a new school record.
“At the start of the year, [state] looked like a goal for my senior year,” Koji said. “I never would’ve thought then that I would make [state] as a freshman, but I had the practice and support needed to make it possible.”