Patrick Doyle is one conflicted swimmer.
The Methuen sophomore is naturally pleased with his performance at the Division 1 boys state meet Sunday, where he was crowned state champion in the 100 butterfly in a personal-best time of :57.25, but he wonders if he could be doing even better.
Doyle is one of five boys on the Methuen girls team. They swim together in dual meets, but separate for the sectional and state meet. For state, boys need to make the same qualifying times used by the boys in the much more popular winter season.
Thus, while Doyle is a fine freestyler, and set a fall boys meet record while winning the 200 freestyle at sectional, he did not swim that event at state because he didn’t make the winter qualifying standard.
Which is why many events in the boys fall state meet have just one to three competitors. Doyle had no opponents in his race, but he still had his best time.
“I think I was able to do it because it was the excitement of being at state and my teammates were there,” he said of his terrific performance despite swimming solo.
Doyle didn’t choose this system, of course, but he certainly doesn’t like it. He does like swimming alongside the girls, however, which is why he’s conflicted.
“I like swimming with the girls team a lot,” said Doyle, whose older sister Sammii is a former member of the Rangers’ girls squad. “They’re really nice and supportive and I think it’s a more relaxed (atmosphere).”
On the other hand ...
“I would like to have a boys team (at Methuen) because it’d be better competition and I think it would help me improve more,” he said.
A year-round swimmer, who currently competes for Solo Aquatics out of Cedardale, Doyle has certainly improved over the last year. His best 200 freestyle time has dipped from 2:05 to 1:58 and his 100 fly time has gone from 1:02 to :58 prior to Sunday’s race.
The latter clocking, which made the state qualifying standard, was Doyle’s main goal for the season, dating back to last year’s state meet.
“When I was there supporting the team, I said to myself that there was no way I would be watching from the stands next year,” he said. “I wanted to break a minute in the 100 fly this year but making state was my main goal.”
Methuen coach Jason Smith likes the dynamics that Doyle, and the other four boys on this year’s squad, bring to what is effectively a coed squad.
“I think they may push each other a little and they get along so well,” said Smith. “They give each other a lot of support. People have seen it. I think that’s a big reason why we won the Division 1 sportsmanship award.”
Still, Smith recognizes that Doyle could develop a bit faster on an all-boys squad.
“Patrick is a gamer, a real competitor,” said Smith. “I think on a winter (boys) team, he’d be in a situation where he’d thrive by the competition.”
That scenario is probably unlikely so, for the time being, Doyle will continue to train year-round with Solo Aquatics and compete for the Methuen fall girls team. It will also continue to keep him conflicted.
“I like high school swimming a lot, and year-round (club) swimming is less fun,” he said. “But it (club swimming) still puts a smile on my face and it’s more rewarding.”