If you’re looking for a rich tradition of swimming success, you can dive deep and will never find it at Arlington Seguin High School.
“We got used to no one noticing us being there, and if they did notice us, they basically just thought we were the laughingstock of being at the meet,” said head coach Alex Weidemann.
Weidemann said when he took over the program six years ago, there were just four kids on the team.
So, to increase numbers, he started begging any kid he could find. Kids like senior Gerald Hodges II. Gerald had never swum a day in his life, and at his freshman tryout, he nearly drowned.
“[I was] 90 percent certain, I was gonna have to jump in,” Weidemann said.
By most accounts, Gerald didn’t belong anywhere near a swimming pool. In fact, Coach Weidemann still remembers what the other teams said about Gerald.
“This boy is dangerous, and they were right,” he said.
Still, Gerald wasn’t the only one without experience. “It’s skills 5-year-olds have that our 14-year-olds don’t have,” Weidemann said.
However, Gerald was the worst. “I mean it was bad. Pretty bad,” said senior Timothy Huang.
“It was a little bit of watching your head go up and down, up and down,” said senior DJ Henson.
“I was the worst one here,” Gerald said. “When I first started, I was the only one who couldn’t get across the pool.”
“At his level, it probably would have been prudent to get rid of him,” Weidemann said. “But there was something so different about his mentality and his work ethic.”
Coach Weidemann may have been the only person to see the potential. Not just in Gerald, but also in all his swimmers.
Pretty soon, they were no longer finishing last, then they started placing and finally, a couple of weeks ago, qualified, in the 200 medley relay, for the regional meet.
But that’s where the fairy tale ended.
Only the top two at regionals advance to state and by the time Gerald jumped in the pool, they were in sixth place with just 50 yards to go.
No swimmer from Arlington Seguin had ever reached the state meet, and it wasn’t going to happen now. “So I was like, ‘I’m just gonna race and put everything, my all into it,” Gerald said.
That’s when his teammates noticed he was catching up. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, we might actually have a chance at this,’” said Henson, who qualified for state in the 500-yard freestyle.
“And that’s when I started getting excited,” Weidemann said.
When the race ended, Gerald, the kid who didn’t belong in the pool, who should’ve been cut, had lifted his team to second place and a spot in the state championships.
“It just shows that all the hard work we’ve gone through, all the sweat, all the tears, it all pays off in the end,” Huang said.
“It’s incredible,” Weidemann said. “It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had as a coach.”
“I used to joke around a lot junior year saying when we make it big, this is gonna be our Disney story. This is my Disney story. We made it here," Gerald said.
And that’s a happy ending.