Bocci setting records at Clarion
CLARION — Despite being only a freshman, David Bocci's assault on the Clarion University swimming team's record book has begun.
The Butler graduate last weekend erased the program's previous 500 freestyle standard, which had stood for 33 years, by swimming a time of four minutes, 30.17 seconds in prelims at the University of Akron's Zippy Invitational.
Damon Pietronigro, now a member of the Clarion Sports Hall of Fame, held the prior record of 4:31.27, which he used to place third at the NCAA Division II championship meet in 1988.
“I noticed the school records in a bunch of events when I got here and my times weren't that far off,” Bocci said. “Breaking the 500 record, it's definitely a huge accomplishment. I'm thankful for my coaches and my teammates. I couldn't have done it without them.”
Bocci also joined teammates Nick Soares, Paul Flowers and Connor Cary in breaking the school record in the 400 medley relay with an effort of 3:20.74 at the invite. Bocci swam the butterfly leg in the event.
He closed a highly-decorated high school career last March by winning a state title in the 100 butterfly. He owns Butler's record in that event (48.9) as well as the 500 freestyle (4:31.8).
But he knew the rigors of collegiate swimming would present a new challenge.
“I worked out a lot in the offseason, wanted to prepare myself because swimming in college demands a lot more dedication,” Bocci said. “There's a lot more swimming at this level.”
Clarion coach Bree Kelley has been impressed with Bocci's passion for the sport.
“David certainly has some natural talent, but what separates the good from the great in my book is discipline, consistency and a great work ethic, all of which he possesses,” she replied in an emailed interview. “I truly enjoy working with David. He accepts the work, makes changes when needed and never backs down. He has big goals for himself and I'm right there challenging and pushing him to reach those goals.”
Bocci turned in several standout efforts prior to breaking the school record. He was named PSAC Men's Swimming Athlete of the Week in mid-November after winning the 200 butterfly and 500 freestyle in a 120-116 victory over Bloomsburg.
Clarion's team is littered with very talented swimmers. Cary, a junior, has broken three program records already this season.
“They have bought in. They want to be a part of something bigger than themselves and their individual accomplishments,” replied Kelley. “That is what I believe breeds a competitive environment amongst the team in practice as well as competitions, which ultimately will bring overall success.”
“It's awesome, every day in practice we're pushing each other,” Bocci said. “I know I'm always going to have an amazing partner to train with.
“There's a lot more work to be done. I'm just getting started.”
The Golden Eagles will next be in action Saturday in a conference meet at Indiana (Pa.) University.