Butler grad Bocci named PSAC Swimmer of Year
CLARION — Talk about your finishing kicks.
Butler graduate David Bocci wrapped up his sophomore swim season at Clarion University with his best performances yet — and has received his biggest award to date.
Bocci was named Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Men’s Swimmer of the Year on Friday after placing eighth in the 200-meter butterfly at the recent NCAA Division II National Championships.
“Going into the PSAC Championships, David was on the fringe in terms of even qualifying for nationals,” Clarion sports information director Sean Fagan said. “In two meets, he’s gone from being on the fringe to having one of the eight fastest times in the nation.”
Bocci won the 200-meter butterfly title at the PSAC Championships, swimming the event in 1 minute, 47.27 seconds and shaving 2.08 seconds off his previous best time. He then swam the 200 fly in 1:46.19 at nationals to place eighth and become Clarion’s first top-eight national finisher since 2013.
“David finished so strong. That 1:46.19 time is insane,” said Clarion swim coach Bree Kelly, who was named PSAC Coach of the Year. “He just raised the bar for himself.”
Bocci also qualified for nationals in the 100 butterfly, posting a personal-best time of 48.39 seconds. He did not place in that event.
During the PSAC Championships, he was part of the Golden Eagles’ 800 free relay team that won the conference title in 6 minutes, 42.92 seconds, placed second in the 200 backstroke, third in the 100 fly and sixth in the 200 individual medley.
Earlier this season, he set the school record in the 500 free with a time of 4:32.54. Bocci was PSAC Men’s Swimming Freshman of the Year last season.
“I didn’t see this (Men’s Swimmer of the Year) award coming at all,” Bocci said. “I had no expectations whatsover. When I was told Friday that I got this, it was so exciting. It just makes me want to do better.”
While Bocci’s goals include placing among the top three at nationals and possibly winning an individual title within the next two years, he has lofty team goals as well.
“Before I got here, Clarion placed fifth at the PSAC meet,” he said. “Last year, we were fourth. This year, we were third. We’re trending in the right direction and we’re only going to get better.”
Kelly swam at Clarion herself and was part of conference championship teams in 2004 and 2006.
“He and I share the same goals that way,” Kelly said of the team. “Everyone on the team wants us to win the conference. I took this job with the idea of bringing Clarion swimming back to that level.
“We have the (PIAA) state champion in the 50 and 100 fly, Henry Miller (from Scottsdale, Pa.) joining us next year. Connor Cary, who joined David at nationals this year and is her swimming partner, is coming back for a fifth year.
“Connor returning will be great for David individually, as well as for our team,” Kelly added.
Bocci said the 200 fly is his best event “because endurance is my strong point. I’m better over the second 100 meters. One of my goals is to get faster in the first 100 meters.”
Bocci is the eighth Clarion swimmer to win the PSAC Men’s Swimmer of the Year homor, but the first since 2009. Kelly is the first female coach to ever win the conference honor.
Kelly and Bocci aren’t through working together this year.
“The next big thing for him is to make the cut at the U.S. Olympic Trials (July of 2024),” Kelly said. “We’re going after that together. I’m going to work with him, get him in some long-course meets over the summer.
“David is definitely capable of makling that cut. He is that good.”