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The ‘swimming guy’

Defending state champion Wells looks to break old records

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OREM — At first, it sounds like your typical high school tale of glory: An all-state athlete is voted homecoming king, solidifying his claim as one of the school's most decorated student athletes.

Except this story has a twist.

This homecoming king is not the most popular kid in school. He's not even on the football team. No, this athlete prefers a Speedo and goggles to shoulder pads and cleats. And some people in school don't even know what makes him so special.

"I don't mind people not knowing," said Brady Wells. "That way there's no pressure. Sometimes people at school will see me and say 'Hey, you're the swimming guy."'

Wells, a senior at Orem High, works out of relative anonymity for an athlete of his caliber. As is the case at most high schools in Utah, swimming is not the school's most popular sport.

"It's not real big," Wells said. "I guess since we took second (in the state championships) last year, more people noticed. They do some stuff at assemblies. And since Coach Miller (swimming coach Danny Miller) is the athletic director, he's helping us out."

Notwithstanding the relative lack of recognition, Wells deserves any praise that comes his way. Currently he holds 4A's top ranking in both the 100-yard breaststroke and the 200-yard individual medley, both events in which he won individual state championships last year. He is also No. 2 in both the 200- and 500-yard freestyle events.

Due to his achievements in the pool, Wells has been heavily recruited by the Air Force Academy and other schools.

Miller says Wells has maintained his unassuming attitude throughout all his successes — he is always willing to help out with younger athletes, providing leadership from his position as a team captain.

"A lot of the young kids really look up to him," Miller said. "It's probably unique that he knows them and takes time to be with them, and I think it makes a big difference in their lives. Brady doesn't realize what he's doing; I think it's just a part of his nature. But I think it makes a big difference."

Along with the team's goals, Miller and Wells have set some personal goals for Wells this season as he chases down some of the state's oldest swimming records.

"We're talking about trying to break a couple records in the 200 IM and the 100 breaststroke," Miller said. "We're working on splits and what he has to do to get those. He's very cognizant of all of that and works for it every day in practice."

Wells' current seasonal bests of 1:00.77 in the breaststroke and 1:58.60 in the IM are short of the 4A records of 57.57 seconds and 1:52.43 (set in 1988 and 1994, respectively). However, the swim season doesn't end until February, and he's only getting faster.

"Those seem pretty tough, but he (Miller) thinks I can do it," Well said. "I'm still trying to get there."

Although personal glory and scholarships are within reach, Wells maintains that his goals are secondary to the team's goals of a state championship, a feat that Orem's boys have never accomplished.

Now, as the Tigers embark in Millers' final season at the helm, they are working to improve on their second-place finish at the state meet last year. Wells has been instrumental in maintaining a believing attitude among the squad, Miller said.

"There's a significant difference in how these kids are competing, and he's a part of that," Miller said. "He understands what we're doing and he leads them in the water. He never misses a practice, and those are the things we look for and ask him to do."

The Tigers have started the season off strong with a powerful win at the Utah County Invitational, where they defeated the closest competitor by 111 points.

"It'll be a three-way battle with us, Mountain Crest and Murray at state," Wells said. "Some of our guys already swam better than they did at state last year. If they can drop times some more, they'll be making all-state for sure. It'll be awesome. We're going to win."