Prep swimming: McCollister signs with Catawba

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 24, 2011

By Ryan Bisesi
SALISBURY — It all started with an accidental fall into the deep end of a neighbor’s backyard pool for four-year-old Andrew McCollister.
14 years later, he’s still in pretty deep with swimming. From a six-days-a-week practice session at the Salisbury YMCA with the Rowan Aquatic Club to his recent signing with Catawba to swim collegiately, McCollister has made waves throughout the county.
“I always loved the water, but I was afraid of the deep end for about a year or two,” McCollister said.
That fear is far in the rearview mirror. Runner up finishes in the state championship meets and bringing home nine medals from them have highlighted the lanky six-footer’s career. He’s been All-County and All-Conference, team MVP and scholar athlete all four years at Salisbury.
McCollister credits former Salisbury coach Matt Hall with helping him become more serious about the sport.
“Matt helped me realize my potentinal in swimming,” McCollister said.
Distance is McCollister’s ally during meets, while he conquers it himself. He’s better in the longer events, though he won the silver in the 100 breaststroke in the state championship in 2010. During his club career with the RAC, McCollister competed in national meets as far away as Maryland and Florida, placing 14th in the 1500 freestyle and 16th in the 200 breaststroke.
“I’ve grown to like doing distance freestyle,” McCollister said. “They call me a survivor on the team because I can go the same speed for a long period of time.
Some of the same aspects are still there, as Betsy Graham, McCollister’s first swim coach at age 5, will coach McCollister next year when he swims at Catawba.
“At first, I thought I wouldn’t want to go to a school that’s close by,” McCollister said. “After I toured the campus and talked to Betsy and met the swim team, I fell in love with the school.”
McCollister considered William & Mary and Davidson, a pair of strong academic schools. The 6-foot senior carries a 4.8 GPA and is currently ranked ninth in his class. McCollister, who also hopes to be an orthodonist, received an academic scholarship to Catawba.
“I’m pretty good at freestyling and breast strokes, I feel like those are my strongest strokes,” McCollister said. “I need to work on my butterfly and back stroke and my starts and turns. I’ve never been the best with mechanics.”
McCollister carries a 4:46 personal best in the 500 freestyle. Last summer, he broke the RAC record in the 1650 freestyle with a 16:22.47 and made a national cut in the 200 breaststroke the summer before eighth grade, giving his family something to smile about.
“It was a really proud moment because my mom had just been diganosed with cancer,” McCollister said. “Things weren’t looking too good and she said that really helped her just by seeing something good happen.”