Heritage High School graduate Ethan Hathcock is not your typical high school graduate. Being a student-athlete in the pool always presents its ups and downs. However, this senior decided to use the life lessons and passion that swimming brought him into his school life. The senior, named salutatorian at Heritage, then decided to put in swimming metaphors as a way to touch the lives of his fellow graduates.
“Swimming has become such a large part of my identity and is something people associate me with,” Hathcock shares. “Swimming has taught me many life lessons, such as hard work, perseverance, time management, and sportsmanship. Through the ups and downs of my high school career, swimming was something I could always turn to. For these reasons, I chose to write my Salutatorian address about this great sport.” Below is the speech that Hathcock shared.
School Board members, administration, teachers, parents, friends, and fellow graduates–I am honored to address you this evening. It seems many of life’s lessons can be related to sports. As most of you know, I am a swimmer, and I have found that here are multiple correlations between the sport of swimming and life.
Before a race, the heart speeds and the adrenaline spikes. We all may be feeling something like that right now. This is an exciting time as we celebrate this milestone. We have accomplished this with great zeal. Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” I took this quote from my mom’s Valedictorian speech from 31 years ago, and It is still good advice today. So fellow graduates, let’s stay positive and have enthusiasm!
To continue with the swimming metaphor…we now have some choices. One of those choices is choosing tinted or clear goggles. One offers protection from the dangerous rays and the latter can leave us exposed. Let’s make wise choices and protect ourselves. Another choice that swimmers face is this: to shave or not to shave our bodies? Shaving helps rid us of unnecessary resistance—whether we are competitive swimmers or not, we all need to let go of things that are holding us back and keeping us from reaching our potential.
When considering the importance of instruction, our parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors have taught us well and have given us the tools to succeed. I know I would not be standing here today without the support of my most faithful fans, my family. Okay, it is now time to dive in. The water looks cold—just like that big world out there, but we must try. John F. Kennedy said it best, “Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.” We must take chances. Believe in yourself. Dive in.
Now, which stroke do I choose? Freestyle, Back, Breast, or Fly? This is similar to all the career choices we have—choose the one you have a passion for. From this group, we are going to see nurses, engineers, accountants, teachers, mechanics, and more emerge. Do what you enjoy!
So, the race is ON. I look to my right and left to see how closely my opponents are. Too often, we compare ourselves to others, and we fall short. Theodore Roosevelt’s quote offers good advice, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
While I am talking about racing—it seems like our senior year has been a sprint. We must remember to STOP and relish this time and the relationships made, and our countless blessings. My swim coaches tell me to take fewer breaths when I am racing. However, in life, we should do the opposite. STOP and BREATHE. Take in all God’s gifts which surround us. Maya Angelou suggests, “Life is not measured by the breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away.”
If we start to fall behind in the race, this might be an indication that we need to practice more and try harder. Don’t give up—or as our childhood friend, Dory, reminds us – just keep swimming.
As for the importance of encouragement, my swims are always faster when I have people cheering for me. Let’s continue to lift one another up. Right now, turn to the person on your left and the person on your right, and give them a “High Five.” (Pause) Now pat the person in front of you on the back…You did it—great job! (I will turn to give high five to someone on stage!)
In conclusion, if we remember all of our training, we won’t drown. We will keep our heads above water, and we will continue to make our loved ones proud. We have a WORLD of vast water in front of us now—my fellow Heritage graduates—let’s go make a BIG SPLASH!
As a senior, Hathcock was a 2-time Tennesee High School State Championship state finalist, placing 6th in the 200 free (1:42.01) and 3rd in the 500 free (4:36.88). As a junior, Hathcock finished 8th in the 200 free (1:43.44) at the 2018 Tennessee State Championship.
Hathcock was also named 2019 Heritage High School Male Athlete of the Year, Wendy’s High School Hiesman State Finalist, and NCSA Junior Nationals and Futures qualifier. He also trained for Prime Aquatics in Aloca, Tennessee.
Outside of the pool, Hathcock was also the Student Council President, AP Scholar with Distinction, National Merit Commended Scholar, named Mr. HHS of Heritage, Baccalaureate Class Chaplain, and FCA Huddle Leader.
Hathcock aspires to continue his swimming career at Wingate University, a D2 program in the suburbs of Charlotte, North Carolina. Hathcock hopes to enter the medical field with his intent to major in biology. Hathcock looks forward with, “I hope to continue to swim for exercise later in life, and I hope to instill a love of the water to my future family.”