Friendly Competition Heats up the Pool

Lucas Stencel and Jeff Lyman lined up and prepared to compete in the 100-yard backstroke in their home pool on Oct. 20 at the RWU Invitational. At the sound of the beep, the two dove into the pool with a splash. Four laps later, Stencel glided into the wall for a first-place finish. Lyman followed behind for a close third.

Though they are college freshmen now, Stencel and Lyman have been competing against each other for years. Stencel attended Bishop Hendricken Catholic High School in Warwick, R.I. and Lyman attended North Providence High School. Since ninth grade, they’ve been swimming together at club team and school meets. Now, they’ve taken their competition to the college level.

“We first began swimming for the same club team around my freshman year,” said Stencel. “Jeff made a drastic improvement in swimming in his later years of high school. We got closer.”

For five years, the two have competed in backstroke events, constantly running into each other at invitational and state meets. They’ve competed against each other numerous times and started swimming together for the Hawks as freshmen at RWU this fall.

The two have taken the pool by storm, their teammates calling their performance this season “outstanding.” They’ve consistently been top scorers, not only among the freshmen, but among the entire team.

They have built a strong, competitive and sociable relationship throughout their time together as opponents in the water, but now, as they continue to improve their skills at RWU, they’re able to use their competitive bromance to motivate the rest of the team.

“Stencel and I have been getting close. We have that friendly bond outside of the pool but when we’re in the pool racing we’re trying to push each other in practice,” said Lyman. “Because we push each other, we get closer and then so does the whole team.”

Teammate and roommate of Lyman, Michael Lupino, is very enthusiastic about Lyman and Stencel’s contributions to the team. Lupino is also from Rhode Island, so he’s familiar with the two from previous competitions.

“I’ve been swimming with Lucas since high school and I’ve been living with Jeff since I got here, and they’re both very hardworking individuals. They’re very driven and they work hard to bring positive energy to the team,” Freshman Lupino said.

Lupino concurred with Lyman that their chemistry brings a certain motivation to the team.

“It’s good to see two young teammates pushing each other like that, it sets a good example for the rest of the team,” said Lupino. “I think the biggest part of what makes these two such talented and skilled swimmers is the fact that they push each other. The team sees that and it hypes us up and motivates us, especially coming from two freshmen.”

Stencel and Lyman are both acutely excited for their winter season and their achievements to come therein.

“I know for a fact that this is the hardest I’ve ever worked in my swimming and academic career,” said Lyman.