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BOYS SWIMMER OF YEAR: Upchurch dominant at state meet

Photo by Christine Troyke

Photo by Christine Troyke

Every sport got a shot.

Luke Upchurch tried out football, baseball, basketball, lacrosse and track, but each of those endeavors disappeared through his youth. Eventually only his favorite, swimming, remained.

"None of the other things really stuck, I did about a year each," said Upchurch, the Daily Post's boys swimmer/diver of the year. "I just like the competition of swimming mainly and how you can always get better and beat your time goals."

The focus on swimming has made the Peachtree Ridge junior a top college prospect, while also making his high school team one of the state's best. The Lions finished as state runners-up this season, largely in part to Upchurch, who went a perfect 4-for-4 with two individual and two relay state titles.

He was one of only four Lion swimmers who qualified for state, but the group and one diver scored enough points to beat everyone but Brookwood, which won its third straight in Class AAAAA.

"The kid's in it to win it," Peachtree Ridge coach Jeremy Laird said. "He hates to lose. I know that."

That inner drive was used only in summer league swimming until Upchurch was 11, when he joined the year-round program at SwimAtlanta. The times started dropping fast, only pushing him more toward a swimming career.

"I just wanted to get better," he said. "Year-round swimming is more intense. I felt like it would help me a lot and it did."

Sure, it took him away from other spots. But he didn't mind.

"The way he's built, he's a big strong kid and he's athletic," Laird said of Upchurch. "He's quick on his feet and obviously he's fast in the water. I could see him being good in several sports."

But it's swimming where Upchurch has made a major impact at Peachtree Ridge. He is a part of all three school-record relays, in addition to holding individual records in the 100-yard backstroke, 100 butterfly and 50 freestyle.

His potential began to show at the high school level as a sophomore, when he won the county title and was state runner-up in the 50 free. He also was fourth in AAAAA in the 100 fly.

His efforts went up another notch this season. He swept the county championships in the 100 free and 100 back before winning both at the state meet with impressive times -- 46.56 seconds in the 100 free and 50.85 in the 100 back.

But Laird said his star swimmer was more concerned with the team standings. The Lions made a big push against Brookwood before falling short. That could change next season with Brookwood suffering graduation losses and Peachtree Ridge returning all five athletes who scored at this year's meet.

"We're feeling really confident about winning (next year) because we're all juniors," Upchurch said. "If we all come back and we're healthy, we've got a good shot at winning it because we're all going to get better and we're all going to train harder for it."