LANSING | Like most kids, T.F. South freshman Thomas Kotel didn't want to go near the water when he was a child.
It had nothing to do with having to take a bath.
"I was scared of (going into) the water and I don't know why," Kotel said. "We had a pool and I didn't want to go in it.
"My mom and dad would put me in and pass me between them in their arms."
Kotel, a freshman on the Thornton Fractional swimming team, changed his opinion of water and swimming when he saw a brochure for the Lansing Swim Organization and decided to go out for swimming.
"I saw the brochure and said, 'I can do this,' I think I will like it," Kotel said. "My mom and dad asked me, 'Are you sure you want to join?' and I was sure."
Kotel has enjoyed the sport and and excelled in it. He will compete in today's Lincoln-Way North Sectional.
He became the first Thornton Fractional swimmer to win a conference title when he won the 100-yard butterfly at the South Suburban Blue Conference meet. He won in 59.14 seconds. Coach Chris Simich said Kotel has great potential, but is also producing now.
"He is our utility guy in that no matter what event I need him in, he can do it and perform well," Simich said. "Thomas really puts in the extra time and workouts, so you know he wants to get better."
Simich said he did have to encourage him to try the breaststroke.
"He told me he was more of a freestyle guy, and I told him we'd see about that," Simich said. "He really took to it and has become good in that event too. Heck, he won conference."
Kotel is optimistic about today's sectional, though he knows it will be tough to qualify for the state meet.
"I am looking to drop times and swimming against that type of competition is only going to make me better," Kotel said. "I just want to improve."