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It's what the Barrys do

Competitive swimming is in their blood.

By BRANT JAMES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 1, 2002

SPRING HILL -- As if making a natural migration to the water, Matt and Sarah Barry began swimming competitively at age 6. That's just what the Barry kids do, like father, Mark, did before them and three younger brothers and sisters have done since.

Year-round commitments, club competitions and pre-dawn practice soon became a normal part of life and so, too, did winning.

This year, Matt, a junior, and Sarah, a freshman, won together at Springstead.

"Having (Matt) around makes me want to try harder," Sarah Barry said.

"It's motivating to me when I see her do well,' Matt Barry said. "I see her do well and I want to do well, not out of competitiveness but out of pride.

"It pushes you to have a sister you swam with all your life."

Both seemed highly motivated this season. Matt qualified for the state meet in the 100-yard breaststroke and 50 freestyle. He broke his own district record in winning the 100 breaststroke in 1:01.92. Sarah qualified for state in the 200 individual medley, 100 breaststroke and two relay teams.

"They prove that hard work pays off," said Eagles coach Brian Hengesbach. "The kids who qualify for states get to that level because they have a competitive drive.

"They're hard workers and they do what they're told. You can't ask for more than that."

Matt finished 19th in the 50 free at state. He entered the 100 breaststroke seeded seventh but finished eighth because of a disqualification. Sarah finished 23rd in the 200 IM and 19th in the 100 breast.

"They've excelled far beyond what I ever did," said Mark Barry, who swam at St. Pete Catholic when it was known as Bishop Barry. "But that's great."

Veterans of competitive swimming, the Barry children often help coach themselves.

"I've swum for tons of coaches," Matt said, "but no one really knows your strokes as well as your Dad or sister. Sometimes I'll ask (Sarah), 'How does this look?' "

It all starts from an early age in the Barry home. Mark, executive director of the Arc Nature Coast and a triathlete in training, started the procession, and Matt, Sarah and now Daniel, 12, Jacob, 9, and Leah, 7, have all followed.

Matt was exposed to competitive swimming by tagging along with his father, and mother, Laura, to his father's meets. Enrolled in swimming lessons before he was 2, Matt displayed an aptitude for the water and was encouraged to swim competitively by teachers.

"My parents never made any of us swim," Matt said. "I took swim classes when I was little and I didn't want to do the classes because I wanted to get on the swim team.

"Watching my dad swim as a little kid kind of got me into it. It was never, like, 'You're on the swim team.' There was no force. It was just something we got into as a family."

"It's just something we all want to do," Sarah said.

Laura Barry, who homeschools her children before they reach high school, appreciates her children participating in a confidence-building activity.

"I always wanted them to enjoy what they were doing," she said. "If they felt good about it, if they felt like they were gaining a little skill, it was encouraging for them to work so hard.

"I enjoy seeing them feel good about it."

As a freshman at Springstead, Matt won a district title in the 100 breaststroke but left the Eagles to swim strictly club last season. He returned this season to compete with Sarah.

"I wanted to make sure I got to swim with my sister," Matt said. "Plus, I really like to swim high school because it's a lot different than club. In club, it's a lot more work-oriented and competitive and stuff. High school kind of gives you that fun aspect of swimming, and that's something I definitely missed last year."

The daily grind of maintaining a high level can wear on teenagers. Both Matt and Sarah sometimes question their motives, Matt more so now, though he uses the lure of a college scholarship to drive him.

One element helps keep Sarah focused.

"When you do well, you feel really happy and you know why you did it," she said. "You put in all that work, and it's nice to feel good when you win."

-- Staff writer Brant James can be reached at (800) 333-7505, ext. 1407. Send e-mail to .


Boys Team

SWIMMER OF THE YEAR: Matt Barry, Jr., Springstead.

COACH OF THE YEAR: Tim Holme, Crystal River.

200 FREESTYLE: Ian Gaffney, Fr., Citrus -- 1:58.50, Gulf Coast Athletic Conference champion.

200 INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY: Ash Preston, Sr., Crystal River -- 2:11.89, GCAC champion, seventh at Class A, District 2 meet.

50 FREESTYLE: Matt Barry, Jr., Springstead -- 23.15, GCAC champ, third at Class 2A, District 4 meet, tied for 19th in Class 2A state preliminaries.

100 BUTTERFLY: Aaron Washington, Jr., Crystal River -- 1:03.23, GCAC champion, 12th at district.

100 FREESTYLE: Keith Martin, Sr., Crystal River -- 54.48, GCAC champion, ninth at districts.

500 FREESTYLE: Ian Gaffney, Fr., Citrus -- 5:18.15, GCAC champion.

100 BACKSTROKE: Mark Warren, Jr., Central -- 1:04.53, GCAC champion.

100 BREASTSTROKE: Matt Barry, Jr., Springstead -- 1:01.92, GCAC champion, district champion and record holder, eighth in state preliminaries, disqualified in championship final.

200 MEDLEY RELAY: Crystal River (Keith Martin, Ash Preston, Aaron Washington, Andy Lanier) -- 1:55.77, GCAC champions, sixth at district.

200 FREESTYLE RELAY: Crystal River (Nick Manzoli, Eric Alford, Matt Washington, Aaron Washington) -- 1:42.41, GCAC champions, sixth at district.

400 FREESTYLE RELAY: Crystal River (Matt Washington, Nick Manzoli, Keith Martin, Ash Preston) -- 3:33.20, GCAC champions, third at district, 24th in state preliminaries.

DIVING: Aaron Washington, Jr., Crystal River -- Score of 327.55 in districts earned state bid; GCAC champ and record holder, 25th at state.

HONORABLE MENTION: Central -- Ian Colburn. Citrus -- Charlie Osterhout, James Masson, Kevin Larkin. Crystal River -- Matt Warfel. Hernando -- Travis Malcolm. Lecanto -- David Bowman, Blake Hallowell, Scott Jackson, Andrew Norton. Springstead -- Joseph Montero.

* * *

Girls Team

SWIMMER OF THE YEAR: Sarah Barry, Fr., Springstead.

COACH OF THE YEAR: Brian Hengesbach, Springstead.

200 FREESTYLE: Sarah Barry, Fr., Springstead -- 2:09.31, GCAC champion.

200 INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY: Sarah Barry, Fr., Springstead -- 2:19.44, second at districts, 23rd in state preliminaries.

50 FREESTYLE: Ashley Martin, Jr., Springstead -- 27.80, GCAC champion, sixth at district.

100 BUTTERFLY: Carli Dofka, Sr., Hernando -- 1:05.73, GCAC champion, fourth at Class 2A, District 4 meet.

100 FREESTYLE: Kennah Johnson, Jr., Hernando -- 1:00.63, third at district, 40th in state preliminaries.

500 FREESTYLE: Sarah Barry, Fr., Springstead -- 5:52.82, GCAC champion.

100 BACKSTROKE: Chelsea Newberry, So., Crystal River -- 1:07.34, GCAC champion and record holder.

100 BREASTSTROKE: Carli Dofka, Sr., Hernando -- 1:11.86, GCAC champion, third at district, 17th in state preliminaries.

200 MEDLEY RELAY: Springstead (Ashley Martin, Sarah Barry, Sarah Siegel, Bobbie Brice) -- 2:05.84,GCAC champions, third at district, 23rd in state preliminaries.

200 FREESTYLE RELAY: Hernando (Carli Dofka, Baily Skinner, Kennah Johnson, Christen Baldwin) -- 1:58.59, fifth at district.

400 FREESTYLE RELAY: Springstead (Sarah Siegel, Ashley Martin, Bobbie Brice, Sarah Barry) -- 4:03.18, GCAC champions, fourth at district, 30th in state preliminaries.

DIVING: Jessica Lufsey, Sr., Hernando -- Score of 321.45 was good for 13th in state meet.

HONORABLE MENTION: Central -- Megan Wakeley, Mary Walton. Citrus -- Megan Mullen, Vicki Oehm, Kristen Pepe, Megan St. Clair, Callie Taylor. Crystal River -- Sarah Bartley, Courtney Chandler, Sayward Rutledge, Allison Rockefeller, Laurie Thomas. Hernando -- Erin Eppley. Lecanto -- Adrienne Holland, Amy Rundio, Cassandra Zamboli. Springstead -- Sarah Knight, Rachel Siegel, Heather Borgo.

-- Compiled by Kristen Leigh Porter.

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